Industry Tries to Address Nationwide Truck Driver Shortage as Workforce Ages

Karen Messier checked her mirrors, shifted into reverse and eased off on the white 2006 Freightliner’s clutch.

With Kirkwood Community College driving instructor Roger Smith walking alongside the tandem axle semi — attached to a 53-feet-long trailer hauling a simulated 15,000-pound load — Messier maneuvered the massive rig delicately through a pattern of orange parking cones.

The 47-year-old New Orleans native is one of eight students in Kirkwood’s four-week truck driving course trying to enter an industry starved for professional commercial drivers.

“There’s just so many different career choices, and that’s what I love about it,” Messier said. “It’s all where your priorities are.”

In need of potential drivers like Messier, local employers such as CRST International and Don Hummer Trucking supply Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with equipment and often send recruiters to the course’s later sessions in search of prospective employees.

CRST ranks No. 24 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.

Much of the nation’s truck driver shortage is fueled by the retirement of veteran drivers, coupled with a growing transportation industry. But at the same time, programs such as Kirkwood’s also struggle to find young new talent to meet industry needs.

“We don’t have students banging on our doors as fast as we have employers banging on our doors, so we’re doing everything we can to recruit to get students in here to fill the needs of our employers,” said Amy Lasack, Kirkwood’s senior director of corporate training. “I would say if you have a clean driving history, if you’re safe in the training we have here, then you’re pretty much guaranteed a job.”

The shortage

In 2014, the nation’s trucking industry was short about 38,000 drivers, according to a 2015 truck driving shortage analysis conducted by American Trucking Associations.

That drought was expected to reach nearly 48,000 by the close of 2015 and, if the trend holds, the shortage would reach almost 175,000 by 2024.

The report stated the trucking industry would need to hire an average of 89,000 new drivers per year over the next decade to address the shortage. The biggest factor is a workforce reaching retirement age. The median age of over-the-road truck drivers is 49, while the median for all U.S. workers is 42.

Meanwhile, the median age of private fleet drivers is 52 years old.

“The reality is, right now, there’s more drivers exiting than there are drivers entering,” said Brenda Neville, president and chief executive officer of the Iowa Motor Trucking Association, or IMTA.

While retiring drivers account for about 45% of the shortage, not far behind are added job opportunities to handle industry growth, which accounts for 33% of the shortage, according to ATA’s report.

“I think every trucking company in the country would hire as many drivers that showed up on any given time, assuming they’re capable and safe and meet the requirements,” said Chris Hummer, president of Don Hummer’s Trucking in Oxford. “I think it has to be about casting a wider net and attracting as many people to the industry as we can.”

ATA’s report also lists some possible changes to the industry that could help attract more drivers, such as pay increases, allowing more at-home time or improving the driver image.

While many perceive the job as days on the road, and some positions still include long hours, a growing network of distribution centers has reduced the distance many truck drivers now travel, according to the report.

Untapped workforce

Neville said one barrier to filling the shortage is due to a federal rule that prohibits commercial drivers under 21 years old from crossing state lines.

“There are 18-year-old drivers that are very confident and would be more than able to drive across state lines and the federal rule is not allowing them to do that,” Neville said.

A new study by the American Transport Research Institute, which conducts transportation-related research and represents more than 35,000 motor carriers across the country, is looking into the untapped workforce of 18- to 20-year-old drivers.

Rebecca Brewster, president and chief operating officer of the ATRI, said the study will identify the qualities and characteristics of professional veteran drivers who are around 35 to 40 years old.

Then Brewster plans to identify 18- to 20-year-old drivers with similar traits to place into a pilot program that would see them driving across state lines. If successful, the program could expand, she said.

“We miss folks who are coming out of high school who are looking for a driving career, but are dissuaded because they can’t drive outside the state they are in,” Brewster said. “I think that we would hope to demonstrate that this is a successful tool of finding who among that population of 18 to 20 year olds would be appropriate to put into that pilot test.”

Neville said the program could help build a case for adjusting the federal government’s age requirements for drivers crossing state lines.

In addition to younger drivers, the large majority of the nation’s truck drivers are men.

While women make up 47% of the U.S. workforce, they comprise just 6% of all truck drivers, according to ATA’s report.

Attracting drivers

Back at Kirkwood, Chris Kula, transportation business liaison with the college’s Continuing Education Training Center, said the school’s driving program — which is certified by the Professional Truck Driver Institute — averages at least six students per four-week class. That’s about between 75 to 90 students per year.

The average student is a mid-40s male, but the school is beginning to see more women drivers such as Karen Messier.

Kula, who last fall took Kirkwood’s four-week course, said the class is so much more than just learning to drive a big truck.

“I think the misconception I had was that this is just driving a truck,” Kula said. “It’s definitely a profession and a skill that is learned, and you have to be good at it.”

The course teaches driving skills, but also involves learning how to manage finances and eat healthy foods while spending days or weeks on the road.

In addition to trying to attract younger drivers and more women to the field, Kirkwood, this spring, launched its first four-week English-as-a-second-language class that acts as a preview course to the school’s truck driving program.

Kula said the course, which currently has seven students, likely will be available about four times a year, depending on demand.

But while employers and teachers try to attract more student drivers into the field, IMTA’s Neville said efforts also need to be made to simply redefine how the public views the American truck driver.

While every motorist remembers that one truck that cut them off in traffic, Neville said the industry should showcase successes and the importance of the industry.

“We have got to do a better job of just really elevating the importance of the industry and the value of the professional driver,” Neville said. “Everything that everybody gets is because of a truck driver.”

Story by Mitchell Schmidt @ Transport Topics, American Trucking Associations Inc.

Tampa Bay Job & Career Fair – June 12, 2017

job-fair-banner

ReedTMS Logistics will begin the first of many stops on their Summer 2017 recruitment tour Tuesday June 13, 10 A.M. – 2 P.M at the The event is hosted by the Tampa Bay Times who reach more than 600,000 readers every day. To get an inside look into what ReedTMS is recruiting for checkout ReedTMS Career Openings .

WHY YOU SHOULD ATTEND

  • The event will feature more than 50 local employers
  • Networking! Network as you obtain company information and business cards of the organizations that interest you.
  • Free Admission, Free Parking
  • No Pre-registration Required

Before You Attend :

  • Remember to wear proper business attire. First impressions count!
  • Bring at least 20 copies of your resume
  • Arrive with a positive attitude.
  • Research the websites of employers who will be attending.
  • Practice answering possible interview questions

Please stop by the ReedTMS booth and ask us what we can do for you! We look forward to seeing all of you and wish you good luck! For more information regarding the ReedTMS Summer Job Circuit please contact Andy Patel at 813.369.6235

Publix to offer delivery from all stores throughout the Southeast

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If grocery shopping just isn’t a pleasure for you, Publix Super Markets Inc. will now do it for you — in all 1,100-plus stores throughout the Southeast.The Lakeland-based grocer said Wednesday that it will offer same-day delivery via Instacart in all Publix markets by 2020.

Publix rolled out Instacart delivery service with a pilot program in the Miami area in July 2016 and quickly expanded to the Tampa Bay region. It is now offered in major markets throughout Publix’s footprint and will expand to dozens of others in the next five months. (See list below.)

The Instacart delivery service has created 2,800 jobs, according to Publix.


“We selected Instacart because we knew their approach and expertise would deliver a high-quality experience for our customers,” said Laurie Douglas, Publix senior vice president and chief information officer, in a statement. “The overwhelming response of our customers has proven that Instacart and Publix are a strong and dynamic team. We are excited to take the next steps in building our unique relationship to dramatically grow the service in our markets.”

Publix has defined its relationship with Instacart as a “collaboration” and on Wednesday said it was “strengthening its relationship” with the app-based delivery service. The grocer promotes the Instacart service with signage throughout its stores and has a section devoted to the service on its website.

 

Publix’s relationship with Instacart sets it apart from Shipt, a similar app-based delivery service that began offering Publix delivery in 2015. Shipt has green-and-white branding that is similar to Publix’s own logo, but there is no formal relationship between the two.

Publix’s decision to offer delivery services from all of its stores represents a major investment and a watershed moment within the grocery industry. Publix is known in grocery and real estate circles for the data it collects and analyzes. Instacart also has the ability to mine data from customers, and the fact that Publix is doubling down on delivery means the Lakeland grocer sees a profitable future in the service.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kroger Co., Publix’s two biggest competitors, have been rapidly expanding their click-and-collect services, in which customers order online and have items brought directly to their cars.

The Instacart delivery service goes a step beyond that with home delivery, and it also sets Publix up to compete with Amazon.com, which is laying the groundwork to be a major player in the grocery realm, as well as Jet.com, the e-commerce company Walmart acquired in September 2016. Jet.com has a grocery platform that the company has been rapidly expanding throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

Walmart is also piloting a program in New Jersey and Arkansas in which employees deliver items on their way home from work.
Here are the stores where Publix currently offers delivery:

Florida (Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Melbourne, Miami, Naples, Orlando, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Tampa and West Palm Beach), Georgia (Atlanta), South Carolina (Columbia), North Carolina (Charlotte, Durham and Raleigh) and Tennessee (Knoxville and Nashville).

The next five months will bring Publix delivery to Instacart in the following markets:
▪Alabama: Birmingham, Dothan, Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery
▪Florida: Cape Coral, Crestview, Fort Pierce, Gainesville and Panama City
▪Georgia: Albany, Augusta, Macon and Savannah
▪North Carolina: Asheville, High Point, Wilmington and Winston-Salem
▪South Carolina: Charleston, Greenville, Hilton Head Island, Myrtle Beach and Spartanburg
▪Tennessee: Chattanooga
▪Virginia: Richmond

Story by : Ashley Gurbal Kritzer at the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

ReedTMS May 2017 Employees of the month!

Congratulations to Eric DeBrand and Osmel Figueroa, ReedTMS Logistics’ Employees of the month for May. Eric and Osmel both have an abundance of one trait TEAMWORK. They continuously are willing to help in areas where the business needs them and may be short staffed on occasional days.

Some of the comments as to why they were nominated are as follow:

“Osmel is one of our Florida local drivers. He is continually suggesting ideas for improvement. He trains all the new local drivers that come on board and then he voluntarily mentors them once they are out on their own.”

” If there is ever an issue with one of Osmels runs, he handles it with the up most professionalism and will stay out in the truck if needed. He has become one of the main drivers used on a new ReedTMS account and has done an upmost phenomenal job.”

“Osmel  always picks up and delivers on time. He trains new employees without hesitation and always has a positive demeanor.”

“Eric DeBrand is the ultimate team player by switching his schedule to accommodate us in our time of need.”

“Eric has recently come aboard and has an outstanding attitude. On top of this he is always willing to help employees in whatever they need and has even taken on additional responsibility to temporarily fill a need”

‘Eric is an amazing team player, but on top of that the guy simply knows what he is doing and gets it done at a high level without giving excuses”

Thanks for all you do Eric and Osmel, keep up the good work!

Florida packing houses struggle to maintain supplies amid greening crisis

packinghouses

Stories of the fatal bacterial disease, citrus greening, often focus on growers, who have seen their annual harvest decline by more than 70 percent because of greening.

Just as severely impacted have been Florida’s fresh citrus packinghouses, which buy a large portion of Florida’s annual orange, grapefruit and tangerine harvests and sell them to supermarket chains and retailers across the U.S. and ship to export markets, including Japan, Canada and Europe.

In the 2000-01 citrus season, Florida had 106 citrus packinghouses operating across citrus belt, which runs roughly south of Interstate 4, according to the Florida Department of Citrus. That was before greening was first confirmed in Florida in the fall of 2005.

Each of the top 24 packinghouses sold more than 1 million cartons of fresh citrus that season, according to the Lakeland-based Citrus Administrative Committee, a federal agency that regulates the industry. All packinghouses combined shipped 55 million cartons.

The 2016-17 season saw only 26 packinghouses operating in Florida, less than a quarter of the total from 16 seasons earlier, the statistics show.

Among them, only one, Egan Fruit Packing LLC in Fort Pierce, will ship more than 1 million cartons, and the industry output in 2016-17 will total just more than 12 million cartons, a 78 percent decline during the 16 seasons.

Few expect things to improve in the near future, which is why several of the remaining packinghouses, including Ben Hill Griffin Inc. in Frostproof, have already announced they won’t re-open for the 2017-18 season.

“We don’t have enough fruit to efficiently run the plant we have,” said Dennis Broadaway, general manager of the packinghouse operated by the Haines City Citrus Growers Association. “We’ve been sitting on this surplus equipment, thinking things may turn around. Obviously, it’s not going to turn around.”

Broadaway was referring to equipment on two of the three packing lines, which have been idle for the past three seasons, he said.

The Haines City Citrus Growers Association has put its packinghouse up for sale, although it expects to run the facility in 2017-18 and perhaps the following season until it finds a buyer, Broadaway said.

As Broadaway stated, locking up a supply of fruit is the key to survival until scientists can find a way to overcome citrus greening’s damaging effects.

Like the Haines City Growers, some packinghouses ensure supply by signing long-term agreements with independent growers that commit a certain portion of their harvest to that company. As citrus growers leave the industry, particularly small and medium-sized growers with less than 1,000 grove acres, those packinghouses are left with finding uncommitted fruit on the open market.

Others hope to survive by pursuing a grow-your-own strategy. That means packing mostly fruit from your own groves like the Peace River Packing Co. in Fort Meade.

“Our model is we have to secure our own fruit supply, and we’re planning aggressively to meet that goal,” said General Manager Larry Black. “We’ve increased the acreage we’re growing under from 1,800 acres to 2,700 acres in the last 10 years.”

About 80 percent of the oranges, grapefruit and tangerines that run through the Peace River packinghouse come from the company’s own groves, he added.

That percentage has increased in recent seasons because the supply from independent, or third-party, growers has dried up not just for Peace River but across the industry, Black said.

“We grew our third-party business in the past, but in the last three years that supply has really diminished,” he said.

Even with aggressive new plantings, however, the Peace River packinghouse’s output has fallen from more than 1 million cartons in 2008-09 and the following season to about 400,000 this season, Black said.

In addition to a diminishing third-party market, the contraction stems from the greening-related production declines in its mature groves, the same declines seen across Florida, he said. In addition, new groves don’t produce marketable fruit until at least the third season after planting.

“Over the next five years, we’re going to focus on rehabilitating groves that have not been productive,” Black added.

That means Peace River won’t be increasing its acreage, but much of that acreage will have newer, more productive groves, thus increasing supplies.

Another packinghouse pursuing a grow-your-own strategy is operated by the Hunt Bros. Cooperative, which has more than 5,000 grove acres in Polk County and the Immokalee area.

Frank Hunt III, president of the family company, agreed the supply of third-party fruit has dried up.

“In recent years, we haven’t purchased anything,” he said. “My volume is off 40 percent from what it was, but because I control my fruit, we are able to maintain packinghouse volume.”

Hunt Bros. has shipped 889,936 cartons of fruit through April 30, the second highest total in the state, according to Citrus Administrative statistics. Still, that’s down from 1.4 million cartons in the 2013-14 season.

One hope for maintaining supplies, at least in the near term, is the success of some new tangerine varieties that appear to tolerate greening infection better than the traditional varieties, Black said. The trees still become infected, but greening symptoms such as the smaller size of the fruit and increased pre-harvest drop appear to be not as severe.

About 70 percent of Florida’s “specialty citrus” crop, including tangerines and tangelos, is sold on the fresh market.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts the 2016-17 specialty harvest at 1.63 million boxes. A carton of citrus, the standard packinghouse measure, equals a half-box.

In addition to tolerating greening, the new specialty varieties are easy to peel and are seedless or nearly so, Black said. Both qualities are in high demand among U.S. consumers.

Shipments of the new varieties have increased from 33,061 cartons in 2013-14 to 258,289 cartons this season, a nearly eight-fold increase, according to Citrus Administrative statistics. The agency projects that total to rise to 400,000 cartons next season.

One popular new variety is the Sugar Belle tangerine, developed by breeders at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred and released to commercial growers in 2009.

Because of high demand from growers, Sugar Belle ranked second among all specialty trees grown last year in Florida citrus nurseries, according to Fred Gmitter, professor of citrus genetics and breeding at the Lake Alfred center who helped develop the variety.

“There’s been a high interest in new varieties from Florida growers,” Black said. “The Sugar Belle and other new releases are showing some encouraging signs against greening.”

Story by Kansas.com

Wal-Mart Asks Employees to Deliver Packages on Their Way Home

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is testing a program that sends store employees to deliver online orders at the end of their shifts, a new push by the world’s biggest retailer to use its large physical footprint to match Amazon.com Inc.’s convenient options for web purchases.

Workers can opt in to earn extra money by making deliveries using their own cars. They’re assigned packages based on where they live so the route aligns with their commute home, the company said June 1 in a blog post. Wal-Mart didn’t specify how the employees will be compensated. The test began at three locations in Arkansas and New Jersey.

Wal-Mart ranks No. 3 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.

Wal-Mart is tapping into its 4,700 U.S. stores and more than a million retail employees as it seeks to redefine itself in an age of e-commerce dominated by Amazon, which offers delivery of some products in as little as an hour in some cities. Online spending will increase by 16% this year — more than four times the pace of overall retail — to reach $462 billion, according to EMarketer Inc.

About 90% of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a Wal-Mart, and the company is using those locations as shipping hubs to compete with Amazon on the last mile of delivery — the most expensive part of getting goods to customers. By using existing workers in their own cars, Wal-Mart could create a vast network with little upfront cost, similar to how Uber Technologies Inc. created a ride-hailing service without owning any cars.

“Imagine all the routes our associates drive to and from work and the houses they pass along the way,” said Marc Lore, who took over Wal-Mart’s e-commerce operation last year after the retailer purchased his startup, Jet.com, for $3.3 billion. “This test could be a game-changer.”

Many online orders in tests have been delivered overnight using store employees, Lore said, showing how the initiative could also be used to narrow delivery times.

The lines between internet and brick-and-mortar commerce are blurring as retailers — including Amazon — try to accommodate a variety of shopping preferences. Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart offers free two-day delivery on millions of items to compete with Amazon’s standard delivery time. It also lets customers buy groceries online and pick them up at stores and offers discounts to online shoppers who pick up items at stores rather than having them delivered.

Amazon, meanwhile, has stepped up its experimentation with physical locations. It’s slowly opening physical bookstores in big cities around the U.S., which double as showrooms for Amazon gadgets such as its Kindle readers and Echo voice-activated speakers. The company opened two drive-in grocery pickup kiosks in its hometown of Seattle earlier this month, its first attempt to match the click-and-collect options rolled out by Wal-Mart and other big-box competitors.

By Spencer Soper @ Bloomberg News in association with Transport Topics