As an industry, we take the time to honor distinguished ready-mix drivers. Take for example the NRMCA National Mixer Driver Championship where drivers from around the country show off their skills. I attended my first Mixer Driver Champion Awards dinner at ConcreteWorks last month, and make no mistake, the pride in not only the drivers’ steps as they walked in, but also on the faces of their family members, gleamed across the room. It was truly something special.
So why can’t we find qualified drivers to fill the labor shortages?
With the increase in construction activity and the greater need for concrete, we should be celebrating the opportunity to expand our operations and grow our businesses. Yet, according to the NRMCA 2015 Driver Retention Survey, the three biggest hiring challenges producers face today include finding qualified drivers, drivers with ready-mixed concrete experience, and working with a small pool of candidates.
Last year, out of the 1.7 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in the U.S., 70,000 men and women drove ready-mix trucks. That’s only 4% of the total truck driver population. It’s clear that we must make changes in how we approach the new generation workforce, and also how to present our industry as one to be proud to work for. Almost 70% of the respondents to our annual TCP survey on page 18 expect to hire drivers in 2015. How do we fill those seats? More importantly, how do we keep those seats occupied once they’re filled?
I heard people talk about the disadvantages of the job, such as having a seasonal schedule or working odd hours, and also of the physical strain of checking loads, washing the mixer, and loading and discharging concrete from the truck. Others mentioned the obstacles/barriers in recruiting; qualified drivers must have a CDL, clean driving record, and must pass a drug screening.
But every profession has its challenges and requirements. How do we get past that and present the ready-mix driver as someone your kids want to be when they grow up? At the ConcreteWorks conference, a gentleman told me, “There was a time a ready-mixed driver position was a hard job to get. It was the job everyone wanted.” How do we get back to that?
I’m not sure that this is something we can answer with a fix-it-all type of solution. But I’m hopeful to get the conversation going and ideas flowing. There was a faint whisper of the future having driverless mixers. It’s not too farfetched considering Nevada is already testing its first self-driving 18-wheeler on public roads. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather see people behind the wheel of ready-mix trucks.
Let me know your thoughts; I’d love to hear them.