Originally appeared in Fleet Owner

It is heartening to get validation for something you believe to be true. That is why I was interested to see the result of the 2020 Driver Recruiting and Retention Annual Report from the Professional Driver Agency and Conversion Interactive Agency. Among other things, 30.9% of drivers who responded to the survey listed equipment as the issue that concerned them the most. Compensation (27.2%) and operations (13.2%) were the next two items on the list.

I know during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, some people thought we had taken care of the driver shortage issue. The reality is the driver shortage is as big a problem as ever — maybe even bigger with the advent of the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. In the first nine months of 2020, there were 40,422 violations — 39,541 for drugs, the majority being related to marijuana. But what is even more disturbing is the fact that many of the people with violations have not started the needed return to work protocol. There are some in the industry who speculate that many of those drivers will not return to work — ever.

So that makes attracting and retaining drivers as important — if not more important — than in the past. Drivers are saying equipment is important to them. That seems pretty obvious given that drivers want to drive and they can’t do so if their equipment is constantly in the shop for repairs.

I always put myself in the other persons shoes. When your car will not start, or you are left stranded on the side of the road due to mechanical failure, it is a terrible experience. Since most of us do not drive for a living, and our personal autos are reliable and only driven a fraction of the miles trucks are, it is hard for us to truly understand the experience. I can guarantee that if your car became unreliable and affected your performance at work, you would make a change and replace your car.

That is why it is vitally important for fleets to first of all keep their existing equipment well maintained, and second have a measured, steady, consistent replacement cycle that they adhere to with only minor tweaks. It is a well-known fact that older equipment needs more maintenance and is likely to break down more often. Continually refreshing your rolling stock will help you maximize uptime and keep drivers behind the wheel where they are happiest.

In addition, technology improvements in the areas of safety and efficiency are happening at a rapid pace so newer equipment is likely to be safer and more efficient than existing equipment. Plus, younger people entering the workforce have an expectation about access to technology in their jobs. A new truck spec’d with the latest technology will be a big draw for them.

It seems to me that there are a host of reasons to keep updating your fleet on an ongoing basis, not the least of which is driver attraction and retention. Drivers have spoken; I suggest we all listen.