How will employers address the talent shortage in transportation

Sept. 25, 2014

More than in the labor market overall, employment fluctuations in Transportation and Material Moving occupations are highly attuned to changes in consumer behavior. During the Great Recession, as consumer and business spending plummeted, employment in trucking transportation declined significantly — suffering a contraction of nearly 14%, compared to 6% in the labor market as a whole. As the economy rebounded, transportation hiring growth outpaced that of other occupations for two years starting in mid-2011. Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects heavy- and tractor-trailer driver employment to grow 11% from 2012 to 2022, consistent with the average growth for all occupations.

Despite continued economic recovery and these positive projections, payroll growth within transportation occupations has been constrained by a shortage of qualified drivers. What are the causes of this shortage and how can the industry confront these challenges in the labor market? The Indeed Hiring Lab took a look at job searches in Transportation and Material Moving to better understand today’s driver job seekers, and how employers in this industry might adapt to find the talent they’re looking for.

US EmploymentThe American Trucking Association estimates that by 2022, US demand for drivers will exceed supply by 239,000 positions, about 15% of projected demand. Perhaps the biggest issue is an aging labor force — the average age of a driver in the US is 55 years old. As workers retire the industry is having difficulty attracting the younger generation to driving positions, in particular due to younger driver’s aversion to spending stretches away from home during long-haul trips.

Adding to the difficulty in finding talent, the natural gas boom has tempted drivers away from general freight positions and to the energy fields with higher wages. Moreover, the slowly rebounding construction industry is attracting drivers, particularly those who were working in construction before the housing bubble burst.

Addressing the shortage of drivers requires that employers in transportation and warehousing get a sense of what the talent pool looks like. Examining the search behavior of both job seekers who are currently employed in transportation roles as well as those in other occupations who might be interested in transitioning to these jobs provides a new lens for understanding the talent supply. These five takeaways reveal what the talent supply in transportation really looks like.

1. Candidates are searching in and coming from other occupations

Earlier this year, research from the Indeed Hiring Lab revealed that only 43% of job seekers search within their own occupation. The occupation satisfaction of job seekers in Transportation and Material Moving is equal to the overall 43% average. Of the job seekers currently employed in transportation, they most often search in the following alternative occupations:

1. Office and Administrative Support
2. Production
3. Management
4. Sales and Related

Job seekers not currently employed in a transportation occupation come from roughly the same occupations as listed above:

1. Office and Administration Support
2. Production
3. Sales and Related
4. Management

2. They’re interested in part-time jobs

Recent analysis of searches for part-time jobs reveals that job seekers in Transportation and Material Moving show significantly more interest in part-time jobs than job seekers in other occupations.

Interest in part-time jobs by occupation3. They’re searching on mobile

Today, 50% of job searches on Indeed are conducted on a mobile device, and job seekers in transportation are ahead of the curve in the move towards mobile job search. In January 2012, less than one-fourth of all Indeed searches for a “truck driver”, “CDL” or “owner operator” position were conducted on a mobile device. By July of 2014, the share of drivers searching on mobile had climbed to 68%. As drivers are more on the move than most workers, they are more likely than the typical Indeed job seeker to utilize mobile devices for job search.

The share of mobile job search is rapidly growing

4. They search late at night and on the weekend

Job seekers looking for “truck driver”, “CDL”, or “owner operator” positions search late night and on the weekends. These job seekers are more active on the weekends than average job seekers, a difference that’s less pronounced but still present on mobile.

Peak times for job search throughout the week5. They’re located in resource rich states

These job seekers are located in states with booming energy industries — North Dakota and West Virginia have the greatest share of job seekers looking for trucking jobs. The chart below shows the share of total job searches that included the terms “truck driver”, “CDL”, or “owner operator” in each state, compared to the total share of job searches across the US. A score of one on this chart indicates that the share of trucking job seekers in the state is equal to that of the US.

Where job seekers in transportation are basedWe also wanted to determine which states may have a supply-demand imbalance of drivers. We examined the number of clicks to jobs with “truck driver”, “CDL”, or “owner operator” in the title as a share of total job clicks, and compared this ratio to the number of job postings with the same three terms in the title as a share of the total job postings in each state. A reading of one would indicate that the level of interest in driver positions is roughly equivalent with the number of job postings, while a score greater than one would show that overall interest is greater than the number of job postings.

Where jobs in transportation are locatedAs driver talent becomes more difficult to find in the coming years, employers will need to adapt new recruiting strategies to acquire drivers. Most importantly, as job search continues to shift from the desktop to mobile devices, employers need to be accessible to the candidates on multiple devices. The shortage could also be addressed by expanding the talent pool to include people from within transportation occupations as well as those with other kinds of experience. Interest from job seekers in flexible and part-time positions makes these types of jobs a way that employers could attract drivers who are becoming less and less interested in long-haul driving positions. Lastly, states with higher concentrations of job seekers interested in driving positions may be better targets for employers who have the ability to employ drivers remotely.