Fleets still relying on spec’ing to combat driver shortage

Lucas Deal

March 6, 2014

The driver shortage has been a problem in the fleet business for many years.

In late 2011, Successful Dealer took a stab at the topic with an article on spec’ing. In the article, we looked at the strategy of spec’ing new trucks with maximum driver comforts as a way to recruit and retain drivers.

“Driver comfort is becoming an increasingly critical dynamic in both driver retention and recruitment,” said Reid Nabarrete, assistant general manager for marketing and sales at Kenworth, at the time.

RELATED: Spec’ing and the driver shortage.

“It’s imperative for fleets to operate the right quality equipment and provide important amenities in their tractors to secure and keep drivers.”

A little more than two years later, the driver shortage and fears associated with it are only increasing.

Driver shortageAccording to a recent Randall-Reilly MarketPulse survey of fleet operators, driver availability is growing as the top concern for fleets in today’s trucking economy.

Since taking over as the top concern in March 2011, driver availability has grown from 40 percent of fleet’s top concern to more than 50 percent.

Fleets are working to combat this problem in many ways.

Online recruiting and audience development are rapidly growing in popularity for large fleets. By identifying and contacting possible drivers within minutes of them applying, fleets are staking claims to potential employees before rivals have the opportunity to get involved.

And once prospective drivers are contacted, spec’ing habits remains a common enticement tool to get them into a truck.

“We’re still seeing drivers kept in mind for all specifications on new trucks,” says Chad Remp, leasing and rental manager at Wheeling Truck Center. “The customers that tend to spec newer equipment tend to have an easier time [keeping drivers].”

Remp says in-cab creature comforts — seats, stereo, etc. — are rapidly becoming necessities most fleets because they offer the best possible working environment.

But enticing drivers to get in and stay in a truck doesn’t just come from a great stereo system. The truck’s drivability also is a major luring factor.

That’s where vehicle hardware comes in. Remp says one of the most popular spec’ing decisions linked back to drivers he’s seen in his dealership is the acceptance of Volvo I-Shift transmissions.

The automated manual transmission had a slow adoption rate when first introduced, but took off when drivers got behind the technology. “It’s becoming the standard,” he says.

Telematics also offers a great selling point, Remp says.

Volvo is now offering a telematics system in its new vehicles that instantaneously notifies customers and Volvo’s corporate action center when any fault code is tripped in a truck. The system advises both parties on if the vehicle immediately requires service, or if it can continue to run.

Remp says the system is so effective it can spot and report miniscule actions drivers don’t even notice, allowing small issues to be addressed before they become major breakdowns.

“That’s a big selling advantage,” he says. “Drivers are happy when their trucks are on the road.”

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