September 2, 2021

Is There a Worker Shortage? Or Do You Have a Retention Issue?

Paula Santonocito Headshot
Paula Santonocito
SENIOR MANAGER, RESEARCHER & WRITER
September 2, 2021

Today, the phrase “worker shortage” gets bandied about with great frequency. If you can’t find people to fill open positions, there’s a worker shortage, right?

Not necessarily.

Although talent acquisition professionals and others responsible for hiring often use the term in this way, the misuse can be misleading. It’s important to ascertain whether there is truly a shortage of workers for a particular job function or if the issue is employee retention.

There is a big difference, and this difference has been articulated so well by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), the largest trade association representing the views of small-business truckers and professional truck drivers, that it compelled us to share what the association has to say on the subject.

For decades, there has been talk of a truck driver shortage. OOIDA says this isn’t true, indicating that more than 400,000 new commercial driver’s licenses are issued every year. The association also cites analysis conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that finds, when it comes to truck drivers, overall supply has been responding to growing overall demand.

Instead, OOIDA says the issue is retention. BLS analysis backs up this claim.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh recently sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, where he shared data, while encouraging the Department of Transportation (DOT) to prioritize retention and limit turnover. But this wasn’t simply a request; he offered actionable steps to address the issue.

From the letter:

“A few areas that need urgent attention from federal regulators and lawmakers include increasing truck parking capacity, providing fair levels and methods of compensation, repealing the exemption that denies truckers guaranteed overtime pay, better driver training programs, and eliminating excessive detention time.”

As an aside, truck driver retention impacts the supply chain, which impacts business operations and daily life. However, a lot of job functions directly or indirectly impact business operations and daily life. And not coincidentally, the points Pugh made, especially with regard to compensation and training, apply to other job functions / industries.

No matter the industry or the job function(s) for which you’re recruiting, the two-page letter is worth reading.

A spokesperson for OOIDA summarized it this way: We think the solution is to fix the leaky bucket.

Is your bucket leaking?

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