The Driver Shortage: What is It and What Does It Mean for Your Propane Business?

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Trying to hire more bobtail drivers but can’t find anyone to fill the job? Are you aware that there is a driver shortage across all industries? Even though there are more registered drivers than ever before, the demand for drivers is so high that there are not enough people to fill all the positions. 

Why are there fewer bobtail drivers?

As you know it takes time to become certified as a bobtail driver, and many people don’t see the salary being worth the training when they can do something else that pays just as well. Bobtail drivers must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL), but they’re also required to pass Department of Transportation hazmat training and receive a tanker endorsement. Although many prospective employees are qualified to drive a truck, they don’t usually have the endorsements and oftentimes don’t want to pay to get them. Even if the employer pays for the trainings, there are still additional stipulations for drivers to receive insurance coverage.

Aside from the industry regulations that contribute to the driver shortage, it’s also just plain difficult to hire good employees. Some other considerations that make finding drivers especially difficult are:

  • Are they willing to do a labor-intensive job, often during extreme weather conditions?
  • Are they versatile enough to do odd-jobs in the off-season?
  • Are they personable and helpful to customers?
  • Are they dependable?

What does the 50,000 driver deficit, mean for you?

With fewer drivers on the road, your customers have to wait for their propane tanks to be filled until bobtail drivers have time to make a drop. If customers need deliveries and you run them out, their dissatisfaction with your company will likely lead them to switch their propane supplier. Of course, you can always pay your existing drivers overtime, or possibly even get behind the wheel yourself to run a route, but time is money, and either of these options will impact your bottom line. In short, a loss of drivers means a loss of profit for you.

What can you do to prevent a decrease in profits?

There are only two solutions to the driver shortage: hire more competitively or come up with alternative ways to monitor customers’ tanks. Hiring competitively requires you to take time out of your day to interview people, offer a higher salary and put them through the process of getting certified. When all is said and done, hiring competitively can result in a lower profit for you, especially if the driver you just spent months training doesn’t stick around.

Your second option is to be more efficient completing less deliveries while serving more customers. For this option, tank monitoring can greatly help. The right tank monitoring solution empowers your truck drivers to see which tanks need to be filled that day, and helps them to plan their routes and their time most efficiently. You’ll actually have the potential to increase your profits with the same team you have without having to hire additional drivers. All while also improving overall driver morale with less small drops.

How can tank monitoring help you beat the driver shortage?

A quality tank monitoring solution will enable you to use your drivers’ time more efficiently. One of the biggest challenges drivers face is making a trip out to a customer only to drop half a tank or less. Not only do bad drops frustrate drivers, but they also waste valuable time that could be used to fill other customers tanks.  With a tank monitoring solution, you, your dispatchers and your drivers have access to real-time tank levels on your computer or your phone so that deliveries are made only when they need to be. By using their time more wisely, you can essentially increase the capacity of your existing drivers as much as if you had hired an additional driver. And if you are able to hire that extra driver, it increases your capacity to grow and serve customers tenfold.

Of course using a monitor on every hard-to-predict account would be ideal, but we’ve seen propane marketers strategically use tank monitors on key accounts they know will run out first on certain routes. Not only does this protect against run outs, it also saves drivers from guessing when drops need to be made. When that monitored account’s tank level drops below 20%, you and your driver know that the other accounts on that route aren’t far behind. And, just in case you do run a customer out of gas, a complimentary tank monitoring service can be used as an apology to retain that customer and guarantee it won’t happen again.

When it comes to having fewer drivers, the factor that shouldn’t decrease is efficiency. When your drivers aren’t efficient customers become unhappy, propane tanks aren’t filled when they should be, and overall your company wastes time and money. A tank monitoring solution helps your drivers make more better drops, resulting in money saved for your business. Using tank monitoring, your company can be more efficient with fewer drivers and still bring in a high return on investment.

Don’t let the driver shortage hurt your business, use a tank monitoring system and increase your success!