How to make driving a truck an attractive profession (again)
The transport sector has a huge problem: the pool of truck drivers is drying up. The professional group is ageing and consists largely of men over 50. To turn the tide, the profession must be made more attractive and accessible to a larger group: to young people, to women, to those entering the profession. But how to go about it?
1980s: Freedom, adventure and a pipe dream… few professions in the world were as prestigious as that of truck driver. Young children dreamed of one day being able to drive such an imposing machine from high up in a cabin. Nowadays, nothing seems to be left of its former appeal. Young people no longer consider it a 'cool' profession. They associate it more with long working days, low salaries, tough working conditions and a lot of stress; busy roads, lots of traffic jams, an overcrowded schedule and constant time pressure.
Due to the low recruitment of young starters, the driver pool is rapidly drying up. There is already a huge shortage. Due to the ageing population, the average age of a trucker has now passed the fifty mark and these are almost exclusively men. For example, in the Netherlands, there are more than ten thousand open vacancies and experts warn of faltering supply chains. We must do all we can to make the profession of professional driver attractive to young people, women, lateral entrants and part-timers, otherwise it could even lead to social disruption.
In this blog, we list the most important improvement measures. The first point - as far as we are concerned - is to remove all stress factors from the truck cabin. Drivers want to be able to do their work in a relaxed manner and not have to constantly worry about whether or not they are going to meet their planned times of arrival. Nowadays, there is no need for that. Trucks are packed with electronics, GPS sensors and telematics systems, so anyone can see where a vehicle is. Smart systems can calculate exactly how long it will take a vehicle to reach its destination, so the driver doesn't have to worry about that at all.
Drivers can also be relieved of the administrative burden. Transit manifests, Proof of Delivery documents, insurance documents, access instructions, ADR guidelines, safety warnings - an endless trail of paperwork and not what anyone needs... so digitise it and make sure all administrative tasks are handled automatically. In addition, allow drivers to plan their holidays and days off themselves and, for example, make it as easy as possible to claim overtime. Systems which provide these conveniences for your drivers are already widely available.
Put people first
If a driver has requested an afternoon off or has to visit the dentist, make sure that this is taken into account in the planning. People work hard, are loyal and make long hours, and the employer should be able to offer a little flexibility in return. Would someone rather not be deployed on an LHV, or would they prefer it? Would someone rather not have to drive internationally, or would they? Is a driver a bit older and doesn't want to transport heavy pallets anymore? Then meet that wish. By honouring all these wishes - as much as possible in planning, of course - employees feel heard and valued.
Another stress factor we need to protect drivers from as much as possible is disruptive incidents on the road: the unexpected traffic jams, the road works, the road closures. They also need to be spared all the regulations and restrictions that apply nowadays, such as environmental zones, window times, narrow roads and (excessively) low viaducts. Provide a navigation system 2.0, which is aware of all these things and takes them into account in the route to be taken. A system that automatically avoids traffic jams and high-risk traffic situations and takes all applicable restrictions into account. A system that warns drivers at the right moment - watch out for the bollard! - and 'coaches' them to their destination without a care in the world.
The great advantage of this real-time support in the truck cabin is that the work can also be done by less experienced drivers. Newcomers can do with a shorter training period, which also makes it easier to drive a truck on a part-time basis. Perhaps there are people who want to drive a truck one or two days a week, but do not want to be full-time truck drivers. They can then combine driving with another job. Of course, they will never reach the experience level of a full-timer, but if they are supported with the right digital tools and are assigned routes at their level, this should not be a problem.
Making the profession more accessible to part-timers would significantly reduce the driver shortage. To do so, employment contracts must be adapted and made more flexible. The transport sector is not exactly known for its progressiveness in this area - full-time employment is the norm - so there is certainly room for improvement here. Just like in the area of gender diversity. Truck driving has traditionally been a truly male profession, leaving half of the professional population out. A great shame! By making the sector more female-friendly and allowing flexible working hours, transport companies can tap into an enormous labour potential.
Finally, improving working conditions also helps. Provide modern equipment and a generously proportioned lorry cabin in which a driver can do his or her job comfortably. Do not skimp on roadside eating and drinking facilities, but allow drivers to take their meals in a proper roadside restaurant. Of course, a competitive salary and conditions of employment must be provided too, otherwise people will just give up. But think also of training facilities and the possibility for drivers to continue their education.
Enormous efficiency improvements
We can already hear transport company managers saying: 'Great, all those tools and luxury for drivers, but is my kid really up to it? My margins are already so thin! We have good news for them. We see that if the above measures are implemented in a smart way, our customers actually make money. Digitising transport execution not only makes work more enjoyable, it also ensures an enormous improvement in efficiency. It provides a higher quality of service and greater reliability towards clients, for which they will reward the transporter.
Make the driver's profession more attractive and digitise it. You will be helping society, the sector and yourself.