Can you believe that 2022 is already upon us? Time certainly does fly, and this year feels like it flew by way too fast. Of course, the world is still dealing with a global pandemic, which alters our sense of time. Still, with 2022 just around the corner, many lament that too much was missed this year. And with the world entering its third year with COVID, others wonder when it will end.
The fact is this: With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, issues with the supply chain, and the shortage of truck drivers going into 2022, it is shaping up to be yet another tough year for the trucking and transportation sectors. Certainly, there is a lot of business to go around, but in many cases that simply adds to the complexities fleet managers must already deal with.
Obviously, it is hard to predict the future, and none of us know for certain what will happen tomorrow, but it would be safe to put your bets on many of the same issues we dealt with in 2021. From nuclear verdicts to recruiting and retention, off-site audits, and developing a strong safety culture – 2022 is set to be another big year. Let’s take a deep dive into how trucking companies can rise to the occasion and meet the challenges of 2022. Let’s look at each of those challenges and analyze how fleets can address them.
Recruiting, Retention, and Compensation
It is the topic on the mind of every fleet manager, no matter how large or small the size of their driver pool is: the recruiting problem. Finding qualified, able-bodied truck drivers has been a minor crisis for trucking companies both large and small. Yet not every trucking company is struggling to fill their cabs. Those that provide an appealing culture have less problems recruiting new people. But what goes into an “appealing culture?”
Consider putting together a list of best practices that will create an inclusive and inviting culture at your trucking company. First, make sure you create a sound recruiting process. Screen the right truck drivers and don’t lower your hiring standards simply to put bodies in seats.
Also, evaluate your pay structure. Are you paying your truck drivers above industry average? Furthermore, are you offering sign-on bonuses or incentives of any kind? Many of your competitors are likely doing so. By keeping your pay at an average level, you lose experienced truck drivers who may find themselves working for your competitors.
You can also address truck driver retention by setting up trailer drops, paying truck drivers for detention time, and sharing critical data with your customers. And, as we have talked before, stop doing business with shippers that detain your truck drivers for an excessive amount of time. Truck drivers notice these things and will be more likely to stick around.
Listen, Listen, Listen
Let’s say it one more time: Listen to your truck drivers. These are your front-line people. Listen to their concerns and take concrete actions to address them. When your drivers see you taking these actions, they will have far more respect for you and be more likely to stick around.
Also, consider listening to your truck drivers needs when it comes to tracking and meeting their compliance obligations. One example could be how you handle DOT medical examinations. Keep a track of when your truck drivers are due for their next medical exam and assist them in scheduling it before it expires. Also consider helping them use the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, provide guidance on hours of service, cargo securement, and other compliance and regulatory mandates they must deal with.
Finally, listen to them even when they leave the company. Fleet managers are often too quick to dismiss the thoughts of truck drivers who leave. Instead, conduct thorough exit interviews and take concrete steps to make improvements based on what leaving truck drivers say. It is important to listen to your people whether they are coming or going.
Keep an Eye on CSA and Enforcement
While the FMCSA is in the process of revamping the CSA program, it still will not be disappearing any time soon. This is something truck drivers and trucking companies will have to deal with for a long time to come. The FMCSA has clearly stated that both the federal government and state agencies are to continue using the CSA program and to expect more audits in 2022, including a big increase in off-site audits.
That is why fleet managers need to take concrete action now to prepare their fleets for CSA enforcement in 2022. The key is to eliminate roadside inspection violations and accidents. Your CSA score should remain as low as possible, which will keep fines low and prevent drastic increases in your insurance premiums. If you put safety management protocols in place, it becomes a lot easier to stay in compliance.
First, adopt and enforce your CSA and enforcement policies and procedures. Also make sure you assign compliance responsibilities to the appropriate personnel and make sure everyone understands what they need to do to stay in compliance. And when problems arise, make sure you take immediate action. Letting non-compliant behavior fester will cause it to infect the rest of your fleet.
Finally, consider moving to an electronic compliance management system. Document your compliance efforts electronically, which will reduce paperwork, increase efficiency, and simplify the job for your back-office workers. It will also make it easier to upload this information to the DOT when an off-site audit occurs.
Create a Comprehensive New-Driver Training Program
If you haven’t heard yet, you soon will. Strict new truck driver training requirements go into effect on February 7, 2022. This means different things for fleet and driver. For example, trucking companies will no longer have to perform their own FMCSA-mandated entry-level truck driver training program. But potential truck drivers will have to go through an extra step to be able to get in the cab and begin hauling freight.
The key is to make sure that your existing and potential truck drivers understand and are in compliance with the new regulations. Individuals who want to become truck drivers will need to be trained at an FMCSA-registered training school before acquiring or upgrading to a Class A or B CDL.
You also want to make the decision early as to whether your fleet wants to register as a training provider. In order to do so, you will need to get added to the FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry. This is the only way you can become a trainer licensed by the FMCSA. One thing to note, however, is that even if you do not intend to join the training Registry, you must continue conducting ongoing training for new and existing truck drivers. Ongoing training is critically important for both new and existing truck drivers.
Continue Your Focus on Hours of Service
It should be no surprise that Hours of Service will remain a top issue for fleet managers and trucking companies. While the FMCSA did make some changes to the program in late 2020, understanding and staying in compliance with the rules can still be tough for some. The key to keeping it simple is to train and retain truck drivers on the rules, conduct in-house log auditing, and coach truck drivers who have racked up compliance violations.
Also make sure you create, update, and enforce HOS and fatigue-management policies. Those policies should also address unassigned driving and personal conveyance rules. Your truck drivers should know when and how to use an exception, as well as documenting when exceptions are used.
It is also important to evaluate the full potential of the electronic logging devices (ELD) your trucking company uses. Many of these devices have lots of functionality, but trucking companies are bad at figuring out and utilizing those many functions. Whether it be to reduce violations, reveal excessive detention time, track assets, or generate analytics and reports – the ELD is your friend.
If your company does cross-border freight hauling, keep the Canadian ELD mandate in mind. Your ELDs must be registered and compliant in Canada. ELD enforcement north of the border is set to begin in June, so make sure you and your truck drivers are ready.
As you plan for 2022, keep these factors at front of mind. Consider a fleet management system to make your life easier. The keys to success in 2022 will be driven by DOT compliance, hiring the right truck drivers identifying poor habits, and facilitating a culture of safety and inclusion. By doing these things, you will position your fleet for success in the New Year.