Carriers set strategies to reduce turnover |

Carriers set strategies to reduce turnover

John Seelmeyer

How strong is the demand for truck drivers? “If they have no DUIs, no felonies and a good work history, I usually can have students pre-hired before they start school,” says Michael Seriosa, who handles admissions for Western Truck Driving School in Reno.

The demand for truck drivers in northern Nevada continues to outstrip the supply, and no one has a good answer to resolving the situation.

A survey by NevadaWorks, the agency that coordinates job-training programs in the region, found that 60 percent of the trucking companies that responded say it’s difficult to find qualified applicants.

There are plenty of openings.

Nearly all the employers surveyed by NevadaWorks said they’ve hired within the past 12 months.

And the number of openings is expected to grow.

The state Department of Employment,Training and Rehabilitation says the number of truck-driving jobs in the area is expected to grow by nearly 42 percent during the next decades.

Some companies, in fact, have experienced 100 percent annual turnover in their cadre of drivers in recent years, says Bill Maund, vice president of transportation with Ozburn- Hessey Logistics in Sparks.While the softening national economy have slowed some of the turnover, Maund says movement of drivers from one line to another remains a significant issue in the industry.

The problem, he says, is particularly troublesome because carriers estimate the costs of turnover including testing, reference checks and the like at $3,000 to $5,000 per opening.

And that doesn’t include the cost of missed deliveries, late deliveries or other problems that arise when a trucking company is short drivers.

Two-thirds of the employers surveyed by NevadaWorks said they require truckdriving experience for new hires, and nearly all of them said they’re looking for applicants with one or two years of experience.

And even though college training isn’t necessary for truck drivers, the NevadaWorks study found that some computer skills particularly Microsoft Word and data-base programs increasingly are becoming necessary.

Programs to reduce turnover attempt to deal one-by-one with the factors that dampen drivers’ enthusiasm for their job.

Topping the list of negatives for many drivers is the amount of time they spend on the job and the time they spend away from their families.

Nearly every trucking company surveyed by NevadaWorks found that drivers are expected to work non-traditional shifts, but Maund says the issue is more complicated than that.

While federal law limits drivers to 10 hours behind the wheel in any 24-hour period, they can be on duty as long as 15 hours a day.

(When they’re not driving, drivers can be doing paperwork, loading or unloading a trailer.) And a driver’s schedule typically is set by a dispatcher who isn’t necessarily sympathetic to the employee’s needs or his yearning to be home with his family.

“You don’t have a lot of control over your life,” Maund says.

“There’s a lot of time spent behind the wheel.”

Some trucking companies offer schedules that allow drivers to be on the road no more than five or six days before returning home.Others offer schedules that allow drivers regular, predictable weekends home with their families.

Other companies, Maund says, allow drivers to occasionally take family members with them.

As long as drivers spend long days on the road, some trucking companies have decided investments in improved equipment makes sense as a employee-retention tool.

Other companies, meanwhile, are taking the old-fashioned approach: They’re raising driver’s pay.

The NevadaWorks survey found about two-thirds of newly hired drivers without experience make $25,000 to $34,000 in northern Nevada.

Pay for truck drivers in the area tops out about $54,000.