The U.S. RMX market is speeding ahead, but recruiting and retaining drivers is proving harder to rev up. With business activity humming and unemployment at a multidecade low of 3.7 percent, employers across all sectors of the economy are looking to fill a record number of job vacancies. Truck drivers are in perilously low supply across all segments of the transportation industry, and competition in recruiting qualified CDL drivers is fierce.
While our nation’s booming construction activity is creating a greater demand for concrete, it is also creating a tremendous strain on firms to find and retain qualified mixer drivers to meet those supply demands. The severe shortage of drivers not only reduces a business’s ability to serve customers but can negatively impact competitiveness, productivity and profitability.
According to the NRMCA’s 2018 Mixer Driver Recruitment & Retention Survey, nearly half of the survey participants said they lost business because they did not have a qualified driver to deliver an order. It’s an industry-wide conundrum that threatens the entire concrete construction supply chain. The challenge is not just recruiting new drivers, but also retaining current employees. Three-quarters of survey participants reported driver job vacancies, but many said it was a difficult to fill open positions due to the small pool of qualified candidates with industry experience. At the same time, the industry’s national turnover rate for drivers is 29 percent, with most employees leaving to take a less demanding commercial short-haul driving position in another industry.
In an effort to address the driver-shortage issue, the industry came together in early 2018 under a new NRMCA Workforce Development Committee. Task groups are leaving no stone unturned in looking for solutions—from partnerships with driver training schools and military-release programs to government-funded apprentice programs. They are also working on talent development programs that support skill building, job satisfaction and engagement. The committee will be providing NRMCA members a progress report in March 2019. To learn more, visit www.nrmca.org.
Some Immediate Strategies to Consider
Below are some immediate workforce development considerations to help you be more successful in finding, engaging and retaining qualified drivers in order to remain competitive and continue to grow.
Leverage Available Resources
Free downloadable resources are available to help you recruit and on-board qualified mixer drivers. These include audio materials for advertising on local radio stations to attract new drivers. Producers may add their company name and contact information to these audio segments. Videos are also available for your website and other on-boarding initiatives to introduce potential drivers to the industry and the day-to-day responsibilities of being a professional concrete delivery professional. To access these materials, visit www.nrmca.org/operations/humanresource/md_recruitment.htm. For on-boarding new employees and to instill a sense of pride of being a concrete delivery professional, take advantage of the NRMCA mixer driver certification program on the NRMCA website.
Create an Apprenticeship Program
Creating a registered apprenticeship program can enhance your recruiting and retention efforts and potentially offset training costs. FASTPORT, the U.S. Department of Labor's industry intermediary for the transportation and logistics sector, promotes and sources candidates, particularly veterans, with a special focus on difficult-to-fill roles. A team of experts works directly with you to develop an instruction and on-the-job training program that works best for your company. Emphasis is on best practices and funding resources available for employers. To learn more, visit www.fastport.org. Other recruitment opportunities include Helmets to Hardhats federally-approved apprenticeship training programs and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program. Another excellent program, which LafargeHolcim strongly supports, is the U.S. Army’s Partnership for Youth Success, which guarantees job interviews and possible employment to soldiers following their military service.
Work with Local CDL Schools
In your region, a community college, technical school or a university that is a provider of CDL training can be a source for new drivers. Many of the publicly funded schools that have CDL driving programs belong to the National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools. You can find a school nearest you with contact information at https://napftds.org/regions.
Many program administrators who develop curriculums will listen to your needs for specialized training and will usually allow employers to come in to offer students employment. Although some financial aid is available through federal programs, the funding may not cover all the costs for attending CDL programs in your area. Consider reimbursing some or all of the tuition for concrete delivery professionals who commit to staying on with your company for a certain period of time.
Keep Communication Channels Open
Considering the costs associated with on-boarding new drivers—and the impact to your bottom-line of not being able to meet customer demands—it pays to tailor a driver-centric retention plan. The first three months are critical, as newly hired drivers who leave do so in the first 90 days. Start with how you define the position. Are you looking to hire a truck driver or concrete delivery professional? We all recognize that the responsibilities of the position require much more than excellent driving skills. Clearly define the highly valued skill sets of the position and use the NRMCA tools mentioned above—the videos and certification program—to educate potential new hires. Conduct “stay interviews” several times a year to provide opportunities for drivers to share concerns about their jobs before they become insurmountable problems. Also, do not skip the exit interview.
Armed with information from departing delivery professionals, you will be in a better position to keep other employees from leaving the company.