September 2019

Work-life balance for truckers is key as driver shortage takes its toll

Breakthrough AI optimization technology for real-time scheduling shows that carriers are prioritizing drivers work-life balance while helping manage costs, service and safety for the company.

With over 70% of all freight tonnage being moved on the nation’s highways, most of the goods you eat, wear, walk on, live in and otherwise consume are transported on trucks. However, within the trucking industry, and increasingly beyond it, alarm bells are going off.

A driver shortage has been getting more severe over the last few years and is predicted to worsen. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) produced a study recently showing a shortfall of approximately 60,000 current qualified drivers in 2018. More critically, the average driver age is now at 46. While the industry is making efforts to attract a younger and more diverse workforce, success in this area has been limited. If the current aging driver workforce trend holds, the shortage will more than double to over 160,000 in ten years.

Importantly, the ATA study outlines how “qualified” means more than just a Class A license. The carriers continue to maintain stringent hiring processes, with safety and reliability being prime concerns. Moreover, traditional approaches for attracting and maintaining the best drivers, such as sign-on bonuses, increased compensation and premium rigs, are now mere table stakes. As a result, carriers struggle to find enough qualified drivers, which makes the impact of the shortage feel worse. Enterprising logistics executives are beginning to realize that these perks are just not going to be enough in the long haul. All the while these same executives need to consider costs, safety and service as well.

Interestingly, a quick survey of some of the threads in driver forums such as the TruckersReport shows that drivers place high value on more nights at home. A recent article in SupplyChain 24/7 backs this up, going on to say that providing an acceptable home-life balance for long-haul drivers is “no easy trick” .

As the shortage of qualified drivers intensifies, carriers look for more and different ways to attract and maintain these key business resources. An innovative approach sees leading carriers looking at advanced planning and scheduling solutions to give drivers more nights at home while maintaining cost structures, service, and safety parameters. Such preference-based scheduling harnesses the power of operational AI to optimize resources, loads and routes while considering regulations and business rules in real time.

Advanced planning and scheduling (APS) is rapidly becoming a key element of an overall ERP strategy for many mission-critical industries, where optimizing resources in real-time and on-demand amounts to smart business. In trucking, APS begins with preference-based planning, with all available trucks, drivers, depots and goods and their respective locations, enabling straightforward fleet, platoon, lane and leg-level optimization. This means more orders are pushed through the same or even fewer fleet resources.

As the usual day-to-day unfolds, unplanned maintenance, sudden cargo limitations, and even last-minute customer changes get a speedy response, all while considering traffic, weather, and of course, driver nights at home, in real-time.

We are just starting to feel the impact of this worsening driver shortage. Visionary trucking companies recognize the clear and present need to manage the challenges of attracting and maintaining drivers, a key business resource. Advanced planning and scheduling not only enables a good work-life balance for their drivers, but reduces costs, improves service and maintains safety regulations.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn

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