There’s some good news on the driver shortage front. According to the American Trucking Associations, the shortfall in the driver ranks has dropped to 60,000 or less. That’s down for the second year in a row from 78,000 in 2022, and from more than 81,000 two years ago.
It’s clear that demographics play an unforgiving role in that issue. The Urban Institute, a research organization, pointed out that globally there are five times as many older drivers (age 55 and above) as younger drivers, meaning a high proportion of truck drivers will be retiring in the next few years.
There is also a large underlying challenge to be met. Hidden in the shortage numbers is that a sizable part of the problem is drivers who move from one employer to the next. Simply put, there’s a retention issue that may equal or even surpass the recruitment need.
For many drivers, in-cab technologies can make life on the road more comfortable and easier, leading to longer tenures behind the wheel. For fleets that employ drivers, those solutions are proving to be another part of their retention efforts.
It’s increasingly clear to a growing number of fleets that staying connected with drivers is a key factor in boosting retention.
An engaging experience
When you want to retain the best talent, ensuring job satisfaction by staying connected with your drivers is critical. That message, according to EpicVue, is what drove the development of its new EpicVue+ platform.
“Long-haul drivers hit the road for days and even weeks at a time, often leaving them feeling cut off from the friends, families, and the companies that employ them,” said Lance Platt, CEO of EpicVue. “EpicVue+, designed to combat loneliness and keep fleets and drivers connected, promotes job satisfaction and stronger employee relations, enhancing the ability to retain drivers.”
EpicVue+ does not require the addition of extensive equipment. The platform’s core components include:
- EpicVue+ allows drivers to watch TV in their trucks with more than 100 channels of live programming and a full library of on-demand content.
- EpicVue+ provides a portal dedicated to training and education to help implement best practices and reinforce compliance. Fleet operators can easily manage content distribution or enable access to partner provided training.
- EpicVue+ includes a custom home screen branded for each carrier along with a dedicated fleet channel so companies can utilize video to distribute announcements and fleet news, promote incentives to reward drivers for performance, and acknowledge standout employees.
EpicVue+ in-cab equipment, which is designed and tested to sustain the impact of life on the road, can be self-installed. EpicVue also handles any technical issues that may arise. No commitment is required.
An interactive voice experience
At Calhoun Truck Lines, an Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based drayage services provider, the annual driver turnover rate of about 30% is comparatively low. Still, noted Brent Bois, president of the fleet, with 150 drivers based in Minneapolis, Omaha, Kansas City, Chicago, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Columbus, and Savannah, retention is an ongoing challenge, and an expense.
“In our type of operation, even though drivers return to a terminal every night, they’re always moving in and out of rail, port and warehouse facilities, and things change constantly,” Bois said. “It can be very frustrating for drivers to continually have phone conversations with regional managers and driver support teams or to stop and look at new load details on tablets. The ability to broadcast operational information is something we view as critical.”
Recently, the company began using a new technology aimed at addressing that challenge. The Ten5 interactive voice-based system is now in use by a select group of Calhoun drivers, and fleet-wide deployment is anticipated in the near future.
Driven by interactive voice experience (Ivex) technology, Ten5 facilitates communication between Calhoun’s central operations teams and regional managers, and its drivers. Without requiring any new or specialized equipment, it gives the fleet a way to push personalized operational messages to one or more drivers and ensure urgent messages are noticed and responded to promptly.
Drivers at Calhoun use brief voice commands to enter the Ten5 app and control their interactive voice experience. Additionally, they can listen to pre-programmed information, ask questions, and send comments, or complete customized voice-based surveys.
The ability to help improve driver retention is what sold Calhoun Truck Lines on Ten5, Bois said. “With Ten5 we have the ability to relay operational information and reduce miscommunication that occurs when drivers are on the phone,” he said. “We also believe that creating a better and personalized experience for our drivers with two-way communication drives up their satisfaction.”
Feedback from Calhoun drivers using Ten5 has been generally positive and early comments also pointed to another benefit.
“Some drivers in our initial group of users have indicated that Ten5 is helping overcome a language barrier when they are interacting with managers,” Bois related. “Another unexpected benefit has been that our managers say Ten5 makes their job easier. Being able to relate accurate operational information and not have to spend time on the phone with drivers gives them the ability to provide better service for our customers.
“The promise of improved driver retention sold us on Ten5 and along with its operational value it’s looking like an attractive and valuable tool,” Bois added. “With it, we expect retention to rise.”
A reliable companion
Beginning in 2018, when Jahnessa Graham started hauling long-haul freight nationwide for a truckload carrier, it quickly became apparent that among her most pressing needs would be determining truck-friendly routes to destinations, especially in cities, and finding safe and accessible parking.
“When I finished driving school, I started using an atlas to find routes, but that wasn’t helpful when it came to bridge heights and truck entrances, or when construction was taking place,” she said. “It also didn’t give me up to date information on places to stop for fuel, food, or parking. Then, a friend introduced me to the Trucker Path app.”
From that point on, Graham has used Trucker Path daily to find parking ahead of time and locate truck stops and other facilities to meet her fuel and food needs. She has made extensive use of the app’s navigation features, especially around cities and as she nears a pickup location or delivery destination.
Part of Trucker Path’s value, Graham noted, is in providing routes that account for access with a large commercial vehicle and directions to truck entrances at shipping facilities. Another is when she runs into a detour for construction, or any road closure and Trucker Path immediately re-routes her safely to where she needs to go.
“Planning your trip is the most important thing any driver can do to reach their destination safely and efficiently,” Graham stated. “I was lucky to have found out about Trucker Path at the beginning of my driving career and now it helps me every day. It’s always reliable and convenient.”
The Trucker Path app was created specifically for truckers and is currently in use by nearly 1 million professional drivers. It offers features that help improve a driver’s comfort, convenience, and productivity including truck-safe navigation, up-to-date information about parking availability at more than 20,000 locations, fuel prices at thousands of truck stops, weigh station statuses and wait times, truck wash locations, and crowd-sourced ratings and reviews for over 470,000 points of interest that serve truckers.
In addition to helping drivers like Graham, Trucker Path is available for fleets to customize and provide the app to all of their drivers—helping to make their day-to-day lives better and, as a result, improve retention.