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Solving Tank Truck Driver Crisis Calls For In-Depth Analysis, Innovative Action by Carriers

SOLVING the driver crisis that continues to plague the tank truck industry requires analysis of the prospective driver pool and implementation of innovative strategies to find and keep good people. That was the recommendation presented at the National Tank Truck Carriers Tank Truck Safety Council Seminar April 11 in San Antonio, Texas.

Three speakers agreed that the shrinking driver pool is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, threats to the industry today. Making the comments were Ken Matlock, trucking consultant and formerly with Boncosky Transportation; Gary Putman, terminals and distribution transportation consultant for BP Amoco; and Dan Baker, transportation consultant.

They emphasized that today's truck drivers are from four very different generations with varying expectations and values. For that reason, managers must adapt new procedures to be successful.

Matlock pointed out that companies often focus on recruitment rather than on retention. Increasing the retention rate by 5% to 6% could improve the bottom line dramatically, he added. He advised the managers to build a relationship with each driver, learn about the family, know their interests, and carry through with actions that demonstrate concern.

He emphasized the importance of pay checks being issued on time and for the correct amount, that drivers receive time to spend at home, that managers always be an advocate for the driver, and that drivers answer to only one supervisor.

Putman pointed out that the prospective driver pool is composed of people from four generations that range from the veterans born between 1922 and 1943 to those born since 1980. The veterans, the boomers, the Xers, and the Nexters all bring talents and challenges.

In the next 10 years, BP Amoco will need an additional 1,500 drivers, according to Putman. The future will demand drivers who are more technically oriented, more flexible in their duties on the job, and more customer oriented.

Baker said driver needs within a company must share priority with customer service in order to improve the situation. “A lot of companies are boxed in,” he said. “A lot of people think that yesterday's solutions will solve today's problems.”

All three speakers agreed that it is essential for a truck driver who is being considered for employment to understand all that the job demands. Putman noted that BP Amoco sends interviewees out with veteran drivers so that they will be exposed to the requirements of petroleum distribution.

The speakers agreed that top management must sign on for support of recruitment and retention programs in order for them to be successful.

Matlock estimated that a good retention plan could take as long as five years to form and implement. “We must restore driving to a proud and respected profession,” he said, adding, “The best recruiter is a happy driver.”

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