Trucking companies in the US are reported to have raised their hiring standards since the introduction of the new safety regulations brought in almost a year ago by the Department of Transport’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, but there are problems with recruitment because of the increased scrutiny now required according to the latest report from the American Transport Research Institute (ATRI).
Since CSA began, more than half of the 695 motor carriers surveyed indicated that they have elevated or altered their hiring standards. The ATRI study into motor carrier perspectives on the rules, found that nearly 70% of carriers, predominantly the larger ones, have begun using the Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) as part of the hiring process.
The PSP is a congressional programme that allows prospective employers to access data on driver applicant’s crash and violation history for a fee of $10 per driver (though drivers must first give permission for their information to be released).
Furthermore, the report revealed that just under 80% of carriers reported that positive safety behaviour had increased among drivers as a result of CSA, thanks largely to the increase in driver training, education and financial safety incentives including such schemes as a clean roadside inspection reward system offering a cash bonus.
The majority of carriers canvassed in the study attributed the success of the Comprehensive Safety Analysis rules to the changes in hiring practice and driver behaviour but, at the same time, nearly three-quarters of carriers acknowledged that the CSA ruling has made it more difficult to hire new drivers because of the increased scrutiny now required. It has also reportedly made hiring a more complicated process because of PSP. More than half of respondents said it was “somewhat difficult” to hire drivers (53.6%) while 18.6% found it extremely difficult.
However, according to Gary Short, director of Field Recruiting at Ryder System, that is not the case at his company.
“Ryder has not experienced challenges in driver recruiting specifically due to CSA at this point,” he told Automotive Logistics. “We have seen a few situations where a candidate decides to stay put at his/her current employer and cites the comfort level of knowing and understanding that employer’s safety practices and policies.”
Short said that in the current environment Ryder's brand and operating principles are a valuable attraction to drivers. 
“It is very important to us to treat our drivers with respect and provide them with clean, safe and reliable equipment,” added Short. “These conditions, combined with fair pay and a good balance of home/work life, positions us well to continue recruiting quality drivers as the industry navigates the driver shortage and regulatory changes. We will continue to build a pipeline of qualified drivers as we look forward to 2012. 
This is backed up by the ATRI survey, which found that there had been no major negative impact on the available driver pool through termination of contracts. Almost 90% of the 695 carriers sampled carriers reported terminating 5% or fewer of their drivers as a result of CSA, with more than half carriers not firing any drivers at all. This result appears to quell concerns amongst the driver pool expressed in ATRI’s previous study, which concentrated on driver responses and found that nearly two-thirds indicated some (32.5%) or extreme (32%) concern that they would personally be terminated as a result of CSA (read more here). 
Schneider’s Intergrated Delivery Service
However, there are broader concerns about the long-term prospects for driver availability. While it too reports no ‘material change’ in its ability to hire staff, Schneider National recognises that there is a demographic shift underway.
“Clearly we are concerned about the underlying demographics of driver availability,” said Todd Jadin, senior vice president and general manager of Integrated Delivery Services at Schneider National. “We continue to look for solutions to deal with what could be pending capacity issues [regardless of] whether that is a CSA issue or just a underlying demographic issue. Fewer people are entering the truck-driving market and we are creating solutions to meet those needs.”
One of those is its new Integrated Delivery Services offering, which has specific application to the automotive aftermarket and aims to get more product delivered with the same number of drivers through multiple customer shipments on a single trailer. Jadin said that depending on the makeup of the specific geography and the density of the routes Schneider is able to create, the company can make savings per haul of anywhere between 7% and 20%. This, versus a previous environment where the same group of drivers would have delivered less automotive aftermarket parts added Jadin.
“We are trying to stay out in front by creating new solutions and it is why we started a new business called Intergrated Delivery Services,” he said.