In the last few years, there’s been a lot of conversation about the shortage of drivers in the trucking industry. An aging population of drivers, regulations such as HOS, high turnover, and the stigma of the position have all combined to create a real problem. But drivers aren’t the only professions where the trucking industry is facing a shortage. Technicians are in short supply. Without mechanics who will maintain the equipment?
“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, trucking will need to recruit 67,000 new technicians by 2022 due to growth or to replace men and women currently working in the industry. That doesn’t include the more than 75,000 new diesel engine specialists BLS anticipates will be needed by 2022.” — Journal of Commerce
Today’s trucking equipment is complicated. It’s no longer limited to diesel engine mechanics. It’s electronics and more. Therefore, today’s trucking technicians need to be highly trained problem solvers. They don’t grow on trees.
Where to start
Pay – People aren’t motivated to stay at a position or accomplish more just for money. If you don’t think that’s true, ask a few friends if they’ve ever left a job and taken one for less pay? That being said, the pay needs to be competitive, not only in the industry but compared to other professions that require similar amounts of education and training. Give young people a reason to learn this trade.
Education – One of the best sources of new technicians is to hire good people and train them. How many of us have worked with a teammate that came to us totally green and because of positive character traits developed into an exceptional employee?
Offer your support to local trade schools, establish internships, mentoring programs, and send experienced employees to visit schools or instruct classes.
Work environment – If you want to attract and retain techs find out what they want. It’s not hard—ask them. You’ll find it’s what most people want. A professional and pleasant work environment, clean, warm when it’s cold, and cool when it’s hot, proper tools, and competent co-workers. If you don’t have those things why would anyone want to work for you?
Flexibility – Don’t make your lack of planning your technician’s problems. Don’t demand techs to work 60-80 hours per week because you’re shorthanded, yes, it’s OK to offer the hours, but if it’s mandatory, you’re going to end up with fewer mechanics. Younger people of every generation, not only the youth of today, have sought a life-work balance. Help them achieve this and you’ll become an attractive employer.
Benefits – Health and 401K are important but they’ve become commoditized. They’re expected. Offer more. One of our favorite customers, Celadon Trucking has on-site primary health care, nutrition coaches, full court basketball, and weight room. And that’s only the start, read this, Celadon Benefits, then ask yourself if working for this organization sounds attractive.
Culture – When a company develops a culture based on pride, they retain employees. People want to know what they do matters and that they make a difference. Businesses that take pride in customer service, employee engagement, and vendor relationships develop loyal employees that take ownership. Companies that take advantage of customers with shoddy work, treat vendors as less than partners, and look at employees as numbers, will never develop a culture where employees go above and beyond.
It’s a beginning
Will training, flexibility, and work environment completely solve the trucking technician shortage? No, but it’s a start. It’s up to everyone in the trucking industry to redefine what it means to be a technician or a driver. And that begins by doing what needs to be done to present a professional image.