Driver retention is the real issue, OOIDA board member says

January 19, 2022

Ryan Witkowski

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As states continue to advance measures in an attempt to address “driver shortages,” OOIDA Board Member Dick Pingel aims to shift the focus to what he, and many others, believe to be the real root of the problem: driver retention.

“It’s hard to keep drivers when you don’t treat them right, you don’t pay them right, you don’t get them home,” Pingel told Land Line Now. “And then you can’t understand why the average driver only sticks around for six months.”

The OOIDA board member from Plover, Wis., plans present his case to the Wisconsin Freight Advisory Committee at a meeting on Feb. 1 in Madison, Wis.

Pingel contends that issues within the industry such as driver pay and treatment lead to higher turnover rates for all carriers. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, turnover rates for large long-haul carriers are more than 90% and about 72% for small carriers. Furthermore, the average time that a new driver remains in the industry is six months.

Retaining drivers isn’t an easy task, but it’s something Pingel isn’t ready to give up on. However, since driver retention has been a persistent issue in the industry for decades, it will take a fresh approach if the industry is to avoid a similar fate.

“You know what they say about insanity, doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result? Well, that’s what the industry has been doing for 40 years,” Pingel said.

With rising turnover rates, many carriers have turned to sign-on bonuses – some as high as $20,000, according to Indeed.com – as a means of attracting new drivers. This practice, according to Pingel, does little to retain drivers and leads to many chasing bonuses.

In addition to all the hurdles carriers face when retaining employees, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a completive pay scale as well. Pingel cites rising wages in other industries as another hindrance in retaining drivers.

“Trucking has always competed with the construction industry,” Pingel said, “but now it has competition from other jobs. Even fast food wages are getting equal to the wages that trucking pays, without the time away from family and friends, expenses on the road, etc.”

The trucking industry presents a unique set of challenges; Challenges, and quite honestly headaches, which other industries don’t encounter. This, according to Pingel, is pushing many drivers out of the business altogether.

“They get to a shipper and get told ‘go sit in your truck and we’ll call you when we’re ready for you.’ They finally get to a dock after sitting for hours not getting paid, without access to basic necessities like food, water or restroom facilities. Then they’re told to go back to the truck and sit some more until they’re loaded,” Pingel said. “Now they get on the road where they are finally getting paid, only to be subjected to traffic, bad weather, state inspections, and more things they can’t control. Then, when they eventually make it to the receiver, the entire waiting process is repeated. After six months of this, repeating over and over ‘Do you want fries with that’ doesn’t sound so bad.”

Pingel plans to tackle all these points during his presentation to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Freight Advisory Committee in February.

“I hope to change some minds and maybe bring a new perspective.” LL

Related stories:

  • Driver retention was the top story of 2021, according to one Land Line columnist.
  • Just before Thanksgiving, Land Line Senior Editor Mark Schremmer said it was time to treat the root cause of the driver retention problem.
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