|Derek Leathers, president and chief executive officer of Werner Enterprises|
Leathers acknowledged the troubled rollout of the new ELD regulation but said the industry would adjust. He pointed out his company has employed ELD technology for about 20 years, so Werner was well prepared to be in compliance with the new mandate.
Leathers said the economy and its demands on transport were rising even as truck industry capacity was declining. He pointed out the average age of a truck driver is 60 years. Driver turnover was significant, with retirements of the older drivers a major factor. The combination of difficulties encountered in encouraging young people to view a career as a truck driver favorably and the attrition rate has resulted in the tightest driver market in history, he said.
It was important to offer new drivers a good salary, but this by itself has proved ineffective in recruiting and retaining quality drivers, Leathers said. As important was offering prospective drivers a work environment that allowed time with families, which is important to young workers establishing home lives.
More broadly, it was important to encourage young people to understand there is no one path — that of a college degree — to success, Leathers said. The value of trades should be reaffirmed. Youth must know they can have great and rewarding careers and lives by pursuing a trade, such as truck driving. It was incumbent on the industry and society to make that case, he said.