The 5 Benefits Professional Truck Drivers Want Most

Businesses rely on the transportation industry to put their products in the hands of consumers. Without truck drivers, the extraordinary flow of diverse goods found in U.S. grocery stores and other retailers would slow down to a trickle. In fact, truck drivers moved 10.49 million tons of freight last year, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the country's total freight.

It takes 3.63 million Class 8 trucks to transport the tonnage from factory to store, and every one of those trucks needs a qualified driver to operate it. Unfortunately, the industry is facing an extreme driver shortage, which is expected to grow to 890,000 in the next decade. This crisis has prompted transportation companies to review their compensation and benefits packages, reworking them to include the five benefits truckers want most, in hopes of retaining current drivers and attracting new candidates to the profession.

Pay That Reflects the Realities of the Job

Hourly wage isn't the only item on the list of must-haves, but it is certainly the most important. The fastest way to lose good drivers - or fail to attract new recruits - is to skimp in the pay department. Create a pay structure that accurately reflects the challenges specific to your drivers. Begin with a basic rate, which averages about $40,000 per year nationwide, then add in an appropriate increase to account for the following factors:

•          Tough terrain: If you expect drivers to maneuver high-traffic highways or expertly handle steep mountain passes, make sure you pay enough to attract top talent.

•          Cost of living: The fact is that drivers can comfortably support a family on far less in Oklahoma than in New Jersey. Create a pay scale that takes this into consideration.

•          Special circumstances: Consider other special circumstances that could make drivers' jobs more difficult. Attracting and retaining staff depends on appropriately addressing these issues in the pay department.

Training and Development

Many of the best-paying jobs won't take on a new driver, but you can differentiate your company by bucking this trend. Offer paid training for those new to the industry, along with in-house programs like mentoring and on-the-job skill development. You can take this a step further by subsidizing some or all of the examination and licensing fees.

Your training program can do more than attract new candidates. You will retain your current top performers by offering them extra pay and recognition for participating in your in-house development activities.

Healthy Living for Employees and Their Families

Access to healthcare is a leading worry for many families, and unpaid medical bills are responsible for more bankruptcies than any other debt. A comprehensive health plan for drivers and their families reduces any anxiety and ensures long-term loyalty. Offer the basics and do your best to keep co-pays and deductibles low. At minimum, benefits should include medical, dental, prescription and vision care.

Family Services

New drivers often underestimate the impact their career choice will have on family members. Time away from home can cause significant stress, leading some to rethink their professional goals. Company-sponsored support services are an effective solution for drivers and their dependents. Make the most of industry innovations, like mentoring and communication technology, to ease the transition for your new hires.

Survivor Support

Make no mistake - the future of your company depends on your handling of road-related tragedy. How you care for injured drivers or, in a worst-case scenario, their survivors, will dictate your retention rates for years to come. Make sure each driver carries adequate life and accident insurance, and create a complete package of support services for family members. Examples include access to employee assistance programs that offer counseling over the phone or in-person, as well as dedicated survivor support specialists that can walk families through the complicated details related to medical care.