By Ted Lee, Head of Business Development and Innovation, Magellan GPS
The fleet trucking industry is at the crossroads of a dilemma. Professional truck drivers from the baby boomer generation are retiring, leaving the fleet industry to face a severe shortage of qualified drivers. As many as 25 percent of today’s drivers will retire over the next three-to-five years.
But it’s not just their behind-the-wheel experience the industry will be losing; it will also be at risk of losing their route-knowledge, key information that often goes unrecorded, such as knowing which roads are hazardous and how to get around unexpected obstacles.
It’s a brain drain the industry can ill afford, especially as it hopes to recruit new drivers to meet rising demand.
Dangerous Numbers Ahead
According to Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Truckers Association (ATA), the trucking industry was short 50,700 drivers in 2017 and 60,800 drivers in 2018. If current trends hold, Costello predicts the driver shortage could jump to over 160,000 in less than ten years. And it’s not just the lack of drivers, it’s also a “lack of qualified” drivers that exacerbates a bad situation, a key distinction.
Fortunately, a new generation of drivers waits in the wings.
The Pew Research Center revealed that millennials have emerged as the single largest demographic group in the U.S. labor force. Demographer and futurist Ken Gronbach estimated that 86 million millennials will be in the workplace this year, in a pre-Covid 19 projection. By 2025, millennials could make up roughly 75 percent of workers in the U.S.
However, there is a two-sided good news-bad news coin associated with these work force estimates. The good news is the millennials, a group that grew up with connected technologies at their fingertips, are very comfortable with technology. According to a Gallup survey, nearly 75 percent of millennials get the majority of their information from the internet and 90 percent of them own smartphones.
The bad news is they lack experience, and as the proverb says, “Experience is the best teacher.”
Bridging the Experience Gap with Technology
Yesterday’s fleet routing success was largely based on a mix of hand-written notes, paper maps and memory. The process was more manual than technological and was acquired through years of driving, resulting in an experience-based silo of personal information. Unfortunately, when that driver left the company, his or her route knowledge went out the door, too.
Today’s routing technology can ensure you don’t lose valuable information every time an experienced driver retires or moves to another company. Typically, such technology includes digitized maps and a comprehensive, shared dashboard that links the driver with the back office via a Web portal, ensuring real-time communication between dispatcher and driver. The technology helps enable rookie drivers to come up to speed sooner, without sacrificing safety.
More importantly for route management is how technology can capture key details of each route and add it to their knowledge database, ensuring even a fleet’s newest drivers can benefit from the knowledge acquired by more experienced drivers. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time a new driver is brought on board.
Passing the Routing Baton to the Next Generation
The next generation of fleet drivers will be digitally savvy. In that regard, they will be more willing to rely on answers reached through current technology than acquired through years of time spent on the road. They will have the chance to learn from the experience of older drivers before gaining valuable experience of their own.
Older truck drivers tend to have a strong work ethic and be more safety conscious. Over the years, they’ve acquired the skills and habits needed to help them complete their routes on time. These are traits you hate to lose.
Capturing their experience and sharing it with your newest drivers enables you to reduce training costs, better manage fuel usage by reducing fuel wasted on incorrect routes and help improve driver safety through a real-time dashboard. Routes can be changed on-the-fly to respond to weather conditions or unexpected obstacles. These changes can be communicated through over-the-air announcements or visually on the driver’s display screen.
Thanks to technology, route completion will no longer depend upon a driver’s own familiarity with a particular route.
Honor Your Best Drivers
Routing technology combines the best of knowledge and experience in a shared, reusable platform. Before you allow your most experienced fleet drivers to drive off into the sunset and enjoy their much-deserved retirement, honor their legacy by adding their wisdom to your routing technology solution.
According to Albert Einstein, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” By its very definition, experience is earned over time. Although you can’t teach experience, its benefits can be captured and shared. The lessons of one generation can help pave the way for the next.
Ted Lee is the Head of Business Development and Innovation for Magellan GPS, a provider of innovative GPS navigation devices since 1986, offering products in multiple categories including auto, RV, outdoor, mobile, fleet, and auto OEM. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.