Trucking is notorious for high driver turnover, and yet there are plenty of truckers who have long, productive, and rewarding careers on the road. The truck driver shortage is not going away. The forecast is that the shortage will become even more severe, as Millennials prefer to stay in school and choose other careers.
Some companies continuously train new drivers. However, there never seem to be enough truckers to satisfy the demand. Some freight carriers report that turnover is three-quarters of the CDL qualified drivers each year. So, how can you beat the odds and enjoy a trucking career that is worth your while?
Finding the Driving Career that Fits
The trucking industry in North America pays professional drivers by the mile (CPM), and government regulations control how many hours drivers work in a week. Some of the largest freight carriers subsidize CDL tuition, but they are quick to hire and fire. These companies avoid paying drivers more than a minimum CPM and recoup tuition by locking new drivers contractually.
Combine harsh company cultures with inexperienced drivers, low pay, and too much paperwork, and the result is high turnover. When companies treat drivers like unskilled labor, it is not surprising that drivers move on as fast as they can. In spite of all of this, if you look beyond the headlines in the mainstream media you will find a different story.
Trucking Industry Comes to Terms with Truck Driver Turnover
The trucking industry is diverse, and some fleet owners take an enlightened attitude toward their drivers. Rewarding career opportunities are out there for the men and women with the passion and grit to drive tractor-trailer rigs for a living.
A closer look at the driver shortage shows a more accurate picture: It is the newest drivers who are the most likely to drop out. Truck drivers with more time on the road have a much lower turnover rate. The high turnover in trucking is about finding out if the career fits your life and then finding the right employer.
Truckers who stay in the industry for more than two years are much more likely to remain indefinitely
Drivers who settle in one job for the long haul are good for workers and owners. For drivers, a positive working environment brings job satisfaction and respect. For companies, low turnover reduces the cost to replace a vital part of the workforce, and a reputation as a great workplace makes it easier to recruit experienced truckers.
The top trucking companies have always tried to cultivate environments that attract and retain drivers, and more employers are beginning to figure it out. Carriers are listening and seeking ways to improve their connection with new drivers.
Building Your Future Truck Driving Career
As the saying goes, “It is easier to get a job when you already have one.” Take advantage of opportunities to get additional training endorsements take you even further into management or skilled vocations if you want that. As a rule, if you can get more endorsements on your CDL you should take them, even if you cannot see an immediate use for them.
Your first or present driving job sets you up to progress into higher-paying driving and non-driving positions within your company or beyond. As the driver who delivers the goods, you represent the brand, which puts you in front of other employers, while you are at your most professional. A habit of casually chatting with managers as you drop off your loads may alert you to all of the best positions going.
Subsidized Certification Pros and Cons
To begin a career in trucking, you will pay for the driving school out of your pocket, borrow the tuition or apply to a freight carrier that subsidizes CDL training. When employers pay for school they, do it with strings attached.
If a company does subsidize your training, you will have to stay with them for an agreed length of time, possibly as much as two years. On the plus side, assuming you have a clean driving record and good health, it is an affordable way to break into the industry.
The workplace cultures of trucking fleets that pay tuition may seem jaded due to the steady stream of drivers, and you may feel like you do not fit in, but give it time. Once you are out on the road, you at least owe it to that employer to work through your commitment before you move on. Your obligation will end soon enough.
You Control Your Destiny Behind the Wheel
Take the best work going and keep your résumé up-to-date. Every mile you drive professionally takes you closer to the best jobs in the business, even if that is hard to see right now.
The best jobs in the trucking industry belong to the drivers with experience. If you wish to stay close to home, look out for positions with LTL carriers that will take you home every night.
Alternatively, there are high paying specialized driving positions like car hauler driving jobs. If you earn the right endorsements, bulk haulage and hazardous materials fleets offer some of the best paid in the industry.
Trucking Still Needs Truckers
While automation and self-driving truck fleets are popular topics of discussion now, they are still a few years away. Drone trucks are also likely to take the least popular and loneliest jobs first.
Combine that with a shortage of drivers that is liable to worsen before robotic replacements arrive and you have a recipe for open-ended career extensions. There is still a future for the gals and guys who love the life on the road.
Your CDL will give you a route to new careers that is quick and relatively affordable. Once you make it into that first paying job on the road you can choose your path; you will be able to change course as new opportunities come up.
Hard Work Worth Doing Pays Off
Patience and determination will serve you well in the earliest phase of your career. Achieving your Class A CDL is the first step and, once you have it, opportunities will gradually begin to open up to you.
Avoid accidents, grit your teeth, and honor the contractual obligations that paid for your tuition. When the time is right, move on and join one of the many companies that offer the rewarding roles you deserve.
Geoff is a freelance writer with 20+ years of experience in driving trucks and buses, dispatching, supervising, and training commercial driving teams. His expertise is writing topics on the transportation and trucking industry, and information technology trends.