On Record: Give heed to trucking’s siren call

See if any of this sounds familiar:
· Demographic trends will turn against this industry during the next 10 years. The size of the white male population ages 35-54 – currently providing more than half the workers in this industry – will decline by more than 3 million people between 2004 and 2014.
· During the next 10 years, economic growth will prompt the need for a 2.2 percent average annual increase in the number of industry workers, or an additional 320,000 jobs overall.
· At least another 219,000 new workers must be found to replace workers currently age 55 and older who will retire during the next 10 years, and also to replace those in younger groups leaving the occupation.

If you think the statements above describe construction workers, you’ll need to take a second guess. The above statistical slice comes from the May 2005 report, “The U.S. Truck Driver Shortage: Analysis and Forecasts,” prepared for the American Trucking Associations by Global Insight.

Before you start to shrug, consider this: The trucking community has long considered itself a head-to-head competitor with construction for labor. And if it takes to heart the recommendations of this report – raising salaries to well above the 10 percent wage discrepancy with construction that occurred when trucking took a dive earlier this decade – your labor pool just shrunk accordingly.

Because of the severe labor pressures already underway in trucking – recruiting is now a 24/7 job – truck driver wage increases are likely already creating headaches for you. And the report expects wage gains in long-haul trucking to average 6 to 7 percent per year during the next three years. This not only creates bottom-line stresses for you with the regular workers you hire, but also the CDL-licensed drivers you need to haul your equipment and materials.

Construction does have a few aces in hand though – advantages you need to exploit to their fullest. The first is the quality-of-life-issue of your workers being able to park in their own driveways each night. While this is simply not possible for some construction crews, especially those specializing in industrial work that takes them across the country, the vast majority of contractors make it a point to keep their geographical distances to a manageable level. Although the trucking industry is getting innovative in this area, long hauls are still the nature of the beast. You’ve got the upper hand.

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Entry age is another high card. When we ask our readers at what age they entered construction, well over 40 percent say “age 18 or younger.” The 21-and-older CDL requirement makes the age hurdle higher for long-haul trucking. In addition, many long-distance trucking firms require their drivers to be 25 or older. This means you have at least three years and maybe as many as eight to convince them construction’s a better option.

But the convincing is still up to you. You have to give your crews a competitive wage-and-benefits package, make sure they stay challenged and treat them well. Because if you don’t, the air horn of a Class 8 truck may prove too much of a siren call.