How to Find and Retain CDL Drivers

CDL Driver

For many years, construction and transport companies have struggled to fill Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) positions, or once filled, keep those drivers on the job. It’s an industry-wide problem that seems to have no end in sight, unless you’re counting on automated trucks to rescue the industry. According to Chris Spear, president of the American Trucking Association, that future is still 20 to 25 years out

Meanwhile, every year over 90% of CDL drivers leave their jobs within a year of being hired. Despite the fact that there are 3.5 million CDL licensed drivers in the United States, finding and keeping CDL drivers continues to be a challenge for many construction companies.

What are the key problems facing the CDL industry?

  • Aging Drivers – The trucking industry suffers from the same problem the construction and agricultural industries are facing: the industry is aging. The average age of a CDL driver is 46, and the average age of a CDL trainee is 35. Trucking is not attracting younger people as a viable professional option, whether that perception is justified or not.
  • Low Wages – Long haul truckers and even short haul CDL drivers used to enjoy a fairly high salary. In 1980, truckers enjoyed an average annual salary of $110,000 (adjusted for inflation for comparison), but today starting salaries are lower, with the average starting salary for a CDL driver between $40,000 and $65,000. 
  • Expensive Training – Obtaining a Class-A CDL license isn’t cheap. Most training schools range between $2,000 and $10,000 for CDL drivers to complete training at a trucking school. That cost is significant and a barrier to many who can’t afford to pay for the training needed to enter the profession.
  • Health Concerns – Driving for a living is tough on a driver’s health. Lack of movement takes its toll, as well as the more typical lifestyle of fast food, poor sleep, and little opportunity to exercise. While that may not apply to construction CDL drivers, they’ll still find themselves behind the wheel longer than most people. Truck drivers tend to have higher cholesterol than the average person, are more likely to be obese, smoke, and struggle with chronic stress.
  • Future Job Security – Automation is coming to the transportation industry at some point so some people might see becoming a CDL driver as a poor career choice or fear for their job security if they put time and money into training. 

How can companies address these problems to attract CDL drivers?

  • Advertise Among Younger Groups – Brainstorm where younger job seekers might be and reach out on those channels. This might include a YouTube video talking about your CDL jobs and benefits, and reaching out on social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and SnapChat. Advertise with local veterans groups. Start with this list of 100 veterans organizations. Advertise with local technical training programs and community colleges, and consider using recruiters to help find new applicants.
  • Offer Free Training – Offering to cover the costs of CDL training in exchange for job seekers to work for your company for a set period of time can lower the barriers to apply for CDL jobs. Consider continued training or mentorships as options for newer drivers.
  • Raise Wages Above Industry Standards If possible, take a hard look at industry standards for CDL drivers and consider what your company can do to offer attractive wages that will keep drivers on the job past the first six to twelve months. Including a full list of benefits and any bonuses or incentives with the job advertisement to draw in new applicants. 
  • Health Concerns – Include CDL drivers in all healthcare benefits you offer, and emphasize certain programs, like gym memberships, or incentivize ways to make health a priority in your company. Address driver safety concerns directly, include clear information on safety practices, and offer safety training.
  • Prioritize Job Security Address concerns about automation within the transportation industry head-on. Reassure applicants that the need for CDL drivers is not going away soon, and that your company is committed to keeping employees on the job, even as technology advances and possibly shifts what CDL driving looks like in the future. Forbes recently published an excellent article on what future automation might look like for CDL drivers. 

It’s a challenging time to find CDL drivers, but it’s not impossible to find excellent employees if you’re willing to think outside the box to attract both current CDL drivers and new trainees to the field.