Panel: The Driver Shortage Elephants in the Room

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Posted on October 30th 2014 7:37 PM

A candid panel discussion last week, hosted and organized by Delta Nu Alpha, dug into several provocative topics surrounding the driver shortage.

The panel was moderated by Mike McCarron, of the Wheels Group and founder of MSM Transportation. It was made up of Mark Seymour, president of Kriska Transport and chair of the CTA Driver Shortage Blue Ribbon Task Force; Manan Gupta, editor of Road Today magazine; Angela Splinter, executive director of Trucking HR Canada; and Guy Broderick, a former OTA Road Knight and current driver-trainer with Apps Transport.

As reported by Truck News, the panel took a “macro approach” to the driver shortage, but also examined certain “elephants in the room,” – as McCarron called them –  that set the panel apart from others on the same topic.

From Truck News:

Elephant #1: Is the driver shortage a friend or foe for carriers?

“How motivated are the owners in finding drivers?” McCarron asked. Trucks are full, rates are going up and capacity is good. “Is that demotivating transportation companies from solving this problem?”

“The situation is preventing people from growing organically,” said Seymour, who explained the challenge for most carriers is to seat their unseated trucks and maintaining discipline when it comes to adding capacity.

“The reality is if you can’t seat the unseated trucks you have, why in the hell would you buy more when they’ll just join that unseated group?”

Seymour said now is a good time for carriers “to do some much needed repair on rates and balance sheets”  but at the same time “leverage the positions we have with our customers to be kinder and gentler and more compassionate to our drivers” – including increased pay.

“We had three driver pay increases at Kriska this year alone – three in 12 months – that’s unprecedented. What we have said is we’re going to get more money from the market and we’re going to share it with our drivers.”

Elephant #2: The broken pay problem

Asked if would become a driver if he had the chance to do it over again, Broderick responded “in a heartbeat.” But he said pay needs to be increased across the board.

Seymour agreed but added that many drivers don’t leave companies only because of pay. Lifestyle is a big factor. “A regular, over-the-road driver is gone for a long time and that presents many lifestyle issues – family issues.”

Seymour pondered the possible benefits of a hourly-based pay system for certain segments in the future.  “What we don’t do traditionally, and I hope it happens in my lifetime, is moving (toward) people getting paid for every hour they work and if there time is wasted on the road in an accident or in traffic, they are still getting compensated.”

Angela Splinter brought up the issue of “total compensation,” something she said is starting to emerge.

“So it’s not just hourly wage, but looking at everything you offer your drivers – your benefit plans, vacation time, employee assistant program, RRSPs, pensions – putting that all together and presenting it to your drivers. That’s a trend we’re seeing. In trucking in particular, there are so many variables so it’s hard to determine what you are paying them, but we are seeing that trend to towards total compensation,” she reiterated.

To read about the other “elephants” the panel discussed, click here for the full Truck News article.

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