America's fifth-largest trucking company has a brand new, tech-heavy training program - and it shows how the transportation industry is trying to fight the trucker shortage
- U.S. Xpress, the country's fifth-largest asset-based trucking company by revenue, has revamped its truck driver training program, it announced on Tuesday.
- The company has also opened a training facility in Tunnel Hill, Georgia, near the company's headquarters in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
- It's yet another major investment by a leading trucking company as incredibly high turnover rates and a truck driver shortage rocks the industry.
The $726 billion trucking industry isn't exactly known for being technologically-advanced.Despite that, one of the largest trucking companies in the country has revamped its truck driving training program - and it's more tech-heavy than ever before. U.S. Xpress, which employs around 8,000 truck drivers, relied on guidance from its top truckers to relaunch the training program, along with new forms of training technologies.
"I am excited that US Xpress took the perspective of not trying to develop this program from the boardroom or develop this program in a vacuum, but instead, let's go to our most successful drivers, capture what makes them successful, and figure out a way to perpetuate that to new drivers and new employees," USX chief operating officer Matt Herndon told Business Insider.
Based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S. Xpress has transitioned its training program from a classroom set-up to a self-paced, computer lab-based program. Trainees now are guided through more than 30 videos to engage with more than 200 commercial vehicle learning points.
And, at the company's new training facility in Tunnel Hill, Georgia, there's a virtual reality simulation program for truck drivers before they get behind the wheel. U.S. Xpress is the largest carrier yet with such technology.
The program is three days long for U.S. Xpress truckers fresh out of commercial driving school, and two days for new hires with trucking experience. The training program will focus on new hires, as well as provide continued education for professional drivers throughout their career.
U.S. Xpress is the latest trucking company to announce major overhauls in training as a truck driver shortage grips America
A lack of trucking labor has recently upped prices of everything from toothpaste to Amazon Prime. America will be short 175,000 truckers by 2026, according to the American Trucking Association. Large trucking companies are seeing turnover rates of 94%.
"Like any trucking company, we're all affected," Herndon said. "We're continuously looking at things to help with that by thinking outside of the box."
Major trucking companies nationwide have thus changed the way they train, recruit, and pay drivers. Walmart, for instance, now pays its first-year drivers $87,500 annually.
In the past year, Walmart, which employs 8,000 truck drivers, ran its first national television ad campaign to recruit more drivers, shortened the length of its onboarding process, and began offering referral bonuses of up to $1,500. All told, Bloomberg reported that Walmart has doubled its spending to recruit drivers.
C.R. England, one of the country's largest refrigerated-trucking companies, announced earlier this month that all 6,500 of its truck drivers received a pay raise. The company didn't specify the amount of the raise.To alleviate the trucker shortage, industry leaders have proposed ideas such as lowering the minimum truck-driving age to 18. But analysts say there's only one way to truly fix the trucker shortage - pay truck drivers more.
U.S. Xpress' Herndon said the company hasn't announced a company-wide pay raise, but it's given raises to certain groups of drivers. As part of its new training program, U.S. Express also announced on Tuesday that it will give truck drivers medical benefits starting from their first day of employment.
"Driver turnover, of course, is a big component (of the new training program), but we also wanted to focus on how we could improve our safety scores and our CSA scores," Amanda Thompson, VP of human resources at U.S. Xpress, told Business Insider. "Most importantly, how can we make the drivers more successful on the road and help them to continue to develop as a professional driver?"