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Glass haulers struggle to find and keep workers

Post Time:Nov 12,2013Classify:Industry NewsView:58

Learn more about the glass industry-wide labor shortage from the e-glass labor series from the Oct. 3, Oct. 10 and Oct. 17 issues of e-glass weekly.

The average annual turnover rate for trucking companies exceeds 120 percent. While the turnover rate in the specialized divisions that handle glass hauling is about half that, companies face huge costs associated with hiring and training new workers. Several trucking company representatives discussed the industry’s labor shortage during the Flat Glass Logistics Council’s meeting March 8 in Pittsburgh. “The turnover is much lower in specialized [trucking],” said Dave Tardi, vice president and general manager for Big Freight Systems Inc. in Steinbach, Manitoba. “Our turnover rate is about 48 percent, but there is a very substantial cost attached with that. We have to hire and train drivers, get them behind the wheel and keep them there. That contributes to less turnover, but costs about 40 percent more.” Companies also make huge time investments into drivers that are lost when people quit, said Mike Weiss, director of research and development for Maverick Specialized LLC in Green Bay, Wis. “We teach them how to safely haul glass and not get hurt doing it,” Weiss said. “Maybe our turnover isn’t as high [as general trucking], but it takes a year to get a driver trained to do most of the work that’s demanded of a glass carrier.” While specialized divisions offer the highest wages across trucking companies, Weiss said the challenges associated with glass hauling makes it even more difficult to attract capable workers. The strenuous physical requirements for glass hauling are a deterrent for some female and older drivers. And safety requirements are much more stringent in specialized trucking, mandating that drivers are fluent in reading and writing English. Timing for glass hauling is unpredictable compared with traditional hauling, says Craig Brown, general manager for Maverick Specialized. Trucks might have to wait hours at a glass company’s dock waiting to load or unload. “Even with the higher wages, the delays and unpredictability in glass make it come out to close to even [with wages in other areas],” Brown says. In order to overcome the shortage, the representatives said they could increase wages and offer more stay bonuses. Brown says driver wages have increased significantly over the past few years. Trucking companies could also lobby at the federal government level to increase load weight allowances and permit longer combination trucks. Brown says heavy lobbying went on last year, with Maverick Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steve Williams even going to Capitol Hill to participate. However, managers can make many changes at the company level that will help reduce turnover, Brown said. “If you can do better demand smooth, your drivers will have predictable work and predictable miles. You don’t have to do stay bonuses if you can do this,” Brown says. In addition, carriers are "hauling freight that is easier to move, uses standardized vans or equipment, has more predictable demand cycles, can easily be loaded or unloaded," says Karl B. Manrodt, executive director of the Flat Glass Logistics Council. To learn more about the Flat Glass Logistics Council, click here.

-By Katy Devlin, e-Newsletter Editor, e-glass weekly

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