Big Rigs Get the Comforts of Home to Help Truckers Close Driver Gap
Aug 21, 2015
Drivers’ Request“This is one of the things we’re doing to retain drivers,” Chief Operating Officer Robert Stachura said. “The drivers have been telling us they wanted this in the trucks.” Finding drivers is a central challenge for U.S. trucking companies. The industry will need to make almost 1 million new hires in the next decade to keep pace with growing cargo demand and a graying workforce, the American Trucking Associations estimated in 2014. Drivers in many fleets average more than 50 years old. “The sleeper amenities are how fleet owners fight to get drivers,” said Linda Caffee, 54, who logs about 145,000 miles (230,000 kilometers) a year with her husband. “This is basically our home.” They drive for Landstar System Inc., whose business model is built on driver-owned vehicles. The cab of their custom-built Freightliner boasts a sink, microwave, refrigerator/freezer, ceiling fan and a bed that folds into a dining table. She used to have to cook meals in a crockpot on the floor with a bungee cord holding down the lid.
Driver ShortageCompanies including U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc., Con-way Inc. and Celadon Group Inc. raised pay last year to help woo new drivers. But truck owners can’t always afford higher labor expenses, according to the ATA. A heavy and tractor-trailer truck driver, on average, made $41,930 in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Truck fleets need to give their drivers nicer amenities to attract and retain those drivers,” said President Brian Callan of specialized sleeper-cab maker Bolt Custom Trucks & Manufacturing. “That leads to what we do for a living.” A custom cab typically costs about $45,000 -- a price that can double when a shower and toilet are included, Callan said. The rub for truckers: Showers and satellite TV can only go so far in ensuring that their tractors stay on the highway. “If companies want more drivers they need to pay more,” said Pete Swan, a professor of logistics and operations management at Penn State Harrisburg, an arm of Pennsylvania State University. “But firms are reluctant to do this.” Try Hours has customized sleeper cabs on most of its trucks -- extras that can boost the cost of a new truck by about $50,000 to $185,000, said Lemley, the fleet manager. He is now adding entertainment systems, because it’s more costly for Try Hours to have to idle a truck for a month for lack of a driver. “It’s a very good investment to keep a driver happy,” Lemley said. See Original Article Image Credit: Linda and Bob Caffee's custom-built truck cab. Source: Linda Caffee via Bloomberg