Trucking and the Way We're Coming Back
As the slow economic recovery begins in America, much of it involves the trucking industry. While retailers and service providers are waking up struggling to find ways to navigate the new norm, some trucking companies are finding the need to expand operations to react to new demands and/ or opportunities.
Initially, like most businesses, trucking and shipping companies were hit by the pandemic. While certain pockets scaled rapidly (anyone who could get their hands on, and haul, toilet paper was in demand, for example), others were furloughing off large percents of their fleets. That changed. As the nation adjusted, demands began to spread. Just not necessarily for the same types of goods and retailers as in prior years. Now, brick and mortar retailers like Home Depot, Lowes, Coles (Australia), CVS Health and others scramble to keep shelves stocked with products to fill consumers needs, while many trucking companies are back to full strength and beyond.
One of the biggest challenges for any business is navigating change. Trucking companies are finding the need to be much more flexible in pickup and delivery times as companies like Amazon increasingly offer fast home delivery, and as retailers continue to demand products to the stores as fast as possible. If for no other reason but to keep physical stores a viable option, trucking needs to keep up a rapid pace. One solution seems to be MORE, more warehouses, more trucks which obviously means more people to run those operations.
While some sectors of the trucking industry are growing some have not been able to weather the pandemic storm as easily. Waste disposal companies have found that with the loss of many restaurants there is less of a need for them. As a result many waste drivers have been laid off. In cities all over the US, the situation is getting dire. Some estimates have a third of all restaurants and small businesses in New York City closing for good. At the same time many retailers such as Barneys and Neiman Marcus have shuttered for good. It goes without saying that non-essential trucking into the cities will be less necessary for a while. This may be great for traffic congestion; it does not bode well for the industry and drivers in and around the cities.
But there are positions that will need to be filled. Amazon - in what would seem to be an effort to be less dependent on outside carriers like UPS, FEDEX and the currently chaotic U.S. Postal service - has been rapidly increasing their fleet. The company just ordered 1800 electric Mercedes eSprinter vans, to service regional operational hubs across the country. This only adds to the 20,000 already in use. They also have ordered 100,000 Rivian Automotive Inc, electric vans set for delivery by 2030.
Operationally, the organization has made news for its ambitious plans to recruit for these roles. Recruitment to fill these positions will be a massive undertaking, and a large proportion of those roles will be behind the wheel. That said, the majority of the roles will have no need for special licensing such as a CDL to drive these vans. Lower skill and licensing levels translates to less wages for drivers.
According to analysis from IHS Markit Pricing and Purchasing Service:
There are, however, companies recruiting CDL level drivers. New England based A. Duie Pyle after having to furlough 410 drivers and warehouse personnel in the spring, is back at full staff and is hiring all positions as it looks to expand operations, adding two new warehouses in the northeast, according to the Journal of Commerce.
Meet the Drivers Where They Are, When They're Listening
So as the competition for the good drivers will be increasing over the next few years recruiters have to ask what best avenues speak to best candidates.
Repeatedly, as we dove into interviewing drivers (all of whom asked to be off the record), the consistent theme was: "we don't want to be bothered, until we're ready to be." In one example, we spoke to Joe (last name withheld at his request), a 27 year old truck driver who earned his CDL in 2017. Joe told RNN staff that he has seen an increase in recruitment effort by companies. "You get the ads all the time - and then you ignore them."
Whether it be via in mail fliers or e-mail, SMS or a referral, they don't tend to get his attention, unless he's decided to make a move. With most companies now offering full benefits, retirement plans, even stock options, the lures aren't as unique anymore - they are more expectations versus unique features. His main source for new roles? His driving school. He felt that the in person recruiting done through the driving schools was most effective, time and again - and this was echoed by his peers:
“If I were to be laid off I could just go back to the school and they would connect me to a number of companies hiring”.
We reached out to the school Joe had attended to see how they handle recruiting - New England Tractor Trailer Training School. They said they have hundreds of recruiters that contact them directly or through their site. With a robust demand pipeline, most students who do not already have jobs waiting are placed immediately after completion of their courses. They maintain a talent pool, as well, of experienced drivers, who their corporate recruiting clients pull directly from.
There were (pre-Covid) many connections made during large hiring events as well, which gave the companies an excellent opportunity to give possible drivers a better idea of what they had to offer for advanced coursework and - of course - to add them into the talent pool. NETTTS is working up a virtual equivalent they will be rolling out come fall. The goal of the trucking schools is to maintain skills, while also serving as a clearinghouse for trucker talent.
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