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Supply Chain Challenges & the Truck Driver Shortage


Tim Norlin

The trucking industry has been in the news lately as supply chain issues have created challenges across the United States and globally. While some have asked who is responsible for the supply chain problems, the short answer is the coronavirus pandemic, which has created challenges for manufacturers, retailers, and trucking companies alike. Trucking companies face several challenges that include their own supply chain bottlenecks, and a CDL-A truck driver shortage that, while it isn’t new, has intensified due to several interrelated factors. In a recent interview, Roehl Transport CEO Rick Roehl discussed how the trickle-down effect of the Covid-19 pandemic has worked against the trucking industry, including the difficulty in retaining an older generation of drivers and training a new work force to take their place. (Roehl Transport is one of North America’s safest and most successful trucking companies and Roehl Transport truck drivers are leaders in pay, productivity and safety.)

In recognizing and adjusting to global supply and demand issues that have put the trucking industry front and center, Roehl continues to prioritize the needs of its workforce - including Class A CDL truck drivers who remain essential to the country's economic recovery, and who are also managing their own personal and family life issues like the rest of the country.

Despite many of today's transportation industry supply chain challenges, professional drivers are earning more, and many are getting home more as trucking companies adjust to the more restrictive hours of shippers and consignees, balancing truck drivers’ home time and productivity on-the-road as well as enhancing personal well-being.

How Do Truck Drivers Impact the Supply Chain?

The current supply chain logistics nightmare from seaport to the last mile is only exacerbated by trucking industry statistics that tell a striking story. First, the pandemic shifted production and has left dozens of cargo ships holding thousands of shipping containers stranded in ports off the US coasts. Once that bottleneck opens, the trucking industry can expect a flood of cargo that will only work to burden an already over stressed trucking industry.

There are roughly 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States, and without getting too deep into the weeds (untangling the data from various government reporting agencies is difficult with regards to the types of drivers, routes, local versus national etc.), that’s simply not enough truck drivers. The trucking industry’s largest trade group, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), reports the discrepancy between the number of drivers currently in the market and the optimal number of drivers needed for current freight demand just hit a new record shortage of 80,000 CDL A truck drivers .

According to the ATA, to meet the surge in e-commerce, the trucking industry will need to recruit almost 1,000,000 new drivers over the next decade into the industry to replace retiring drivers and drivers that voluntarily leave to pursue other opportunities.

It's clear that the answer is to retain, attract, train, and hire more truck drivers as soon as possible because many of these supply chain issues ultimately depend on a strong and healthy transportation industry And that's exactly what Roehl Transport is doing - with a proven strategy that reflects the company’s core values and commitment to driver success. CEO Rick Roehl, himself a CDL truck driver, continues to put drivers first, attracting and retaining existing experienced truck drivers , truck drivers who’ve left the industry and want to return, recent truck driving school graduates and even those who are looking for CDL training with a leader in the trucking industry.

How Roehl Transport is Attracting and Retaining Drivers

Long known as a top paying trucking company and a great fleet to drive for, Roehl Transport is also one of the safest in North America, having won an unprecedented fourth ATA President’s Trophy (Trucking’s Top Honor). What this means for drivers who want to Take Home More and Be Home More, Roehl is offering industry leading pay, hundreds of home daily/local truck driving jobs and home weekly dedicated and regional driving jobs. Additionally, Roehl was the first major carrier to offer practical route mileage and the company has now enhanced that with address-to-address mileage pay. To retain and reward drivers, the Roehl offers a Surge Bonus, and to help infuse new life into a slow supply chain, Roehl offers on-the-job CDL training to new drivers.

Roehl Implements Multiple Pay Increases for Truckers

At the end of 2020, Roehl announced a sweeping driver pay increase of thousands of dollars annually for its existing truck driver workforce. The increase is in addition to Roehl's accident-free pay to reward drivers for their professionalism and diligence during a difficult year.

Roehl then increased trucker pay for a second time in 2021 to add between $4,000 to $6,000 or more to the annual pay of most of its drivers in Roehl’s Refrigerated, Flatbed, Van, Curtainside, and Dedicated Divisions. This second increase in compensation reflected the increased business gained from the acquisition of new customers and the addition of more routes from existing clients to respond to the surge in consumer demand.

And just in time for the 2021 holiday season, Roehl is rewarding its drivers with a Surge Bonus that will pay extra cents per mile for dispatched miles driven through January 31, 2022. More than ever, Roehl’s customers are looking to increase shipping capacity in response to their own customer demand.

Roehl Offers Home Daily, Home Weekly, Dedicated, Regional and Over-the-Road Truck Driving Jobs

A truck driver’s earnings and home time needs may change depending on their specific situations. For many drivers at most trucking companies, the desire to maximize earnings means working away from home for long durations of time (sometimes weeks or months). Roehl offers a wide variety of industry leading home time options. From over-the-road (OTR) national fleets with flexible home time (out for 11-14 days, home 3 days) to regional fleets with weekly home time, to dedicated fleets that offer regular routing with weekly (or more frequent) home time to Roehl's HOMEtime PLUS™ Fleets , some of which offer 26 weeks a year off, to home every day and local truck driving jobs (many that offer regional fleet pay), it’s clear that Roehl’s mix of home time employment options allow employees to better balance their job and their family life - without sacrificing a good income.

Roehl's Get Your CDL Training Program

Long before supply chain woes and the coronavirus pandemic occupied news cycles, Roehl recognized the impact a driver shortage and skills gap could make. Instead of waiting, Roehl created the industry’s most successful entry level driver training program - by paying people from day 1, so getting a CDL is part of the job. Roehl recognized that a truck driving job is a way to solid, middle-class financial success for people in low-skill/low-wage jobs, and that acquiring the skills of a truck driver is beyond the means of the people most in need of a better job. The high cost of truck driver training school tuition and the lack of earnings while in school are a fatal combination that make it too difficult for people to actually get the skills.

Roehl’s Get Your CDL Program pays people while they are in training to get their Class A CDL and become professional truck drivers with Roehl. The program provides CDL training with minimal out-of-pocket costs to the trainee and provides a wage during the training so earnings can be sustained while moving to a higher skilled career. It’s an investment in people with no truck driving skills and giving them training, education, employment, benefits and support to be successful in the transportation industry. Plus, these are local jobs for local workers. There is no relocation necessary. Roehl’s truck driving jobs let workers stay in their homes and continue to live in their communities all while doing a professional job delivering the goods that Americans need and want.

Roehl’s 60 Years of Supply Chain Excellence

While the pandemic has shined the spotlight on just how critical truck drivers are to the supply chain, Roehl Transport has long been a part of the solution. Everett Roehl started the company in 1962 with a single truck, and now nearly 60 years later, CEO Rick Roehl continues to lead from a driver’s point of view - ensuring Roehl Transport offers the pay, home time, benefits and work/life balance options to attract and retain professional truck drivers from across the nation.

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