In It For the Long Haul: Booster’s CDL Academy Addresses the Ongoing Truck Driver Shortage

In It For the Long Haul: Booster’s CDL Academy Addresses the Ongoing Truck Driver Shortage

As the crunch of Covid-19, the “Great Resignation,” and the ongoing strain on supply chains continues to rock the transportation and logistics industry, the nation is also facing a shortage in truck drivers. Those who do take jobs in the industry tend not to stick around long: the average trucking company has a turnover rate of roughly 95%, meaning that it must replace nearly all of its workforce over the course of one year.

Amid this volatility, transportation companies and fleet owners struggle to find dedicated, engaged drivers who contribute to company culture and are in it for the long haul, so to speak. How can companies remedy this issue? Booster takes the approach of prioritizing learning and development (L+D).

The premise is simple, and being used more widely as companies in all markets implement tuition reimbursement, initiatives to hire from within, and promote taking time to learn new skills. In the trucking industry, where entry-level jobs and training programs are notoriously exploitative, creating programs that invest in drivers and their ongoing careers is crucial not only to long-term employee retention, but also to incentivizing new workers to join the industry.

When it comes to successful L+D programs, Booster’s CDL Academy can serve as an example. Active in five markets, the CDL Academy offers a fully paid program for recruits to gain their CDL and other necessary certifications, and roll directly into a job with competitive pay, full benefits and clear upward mobility.

Addressing the Driver Shortage with L+D

Despite the relatively recent buzz around the supply chain strain, the U.S. truck driver shortage is nothing new. It is, however, growing in magnitude. In fact, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) reported a shortage of 80,000 drivers last year, an all-time high that could reach 160,000 by 2030.

This number can be misleading as much of it represents people who left their truck driving jobs for other jobs within the trucking industry due to low wages, lack of benefits, poor working conditions, long stretches away from home, or a variety of other reasons. This considered, the high turnover points to a significant need within the industry to provide jobs with better all around benefits, pay and conditions.

There is also evidence to suggest that offering L+D and growth opportunities for drivers will help, as a part of a multi-pronged approach to improving job opportunities overall. Across all industries, L+D is playing a larger role than ever before in recruiting, and serves as a key lever for employee retention — a survey from LinkedIn found that 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development. For trucking positions, this often looks like helping recruits gain their licensing.

While many companies in need of CDL drivers offer programs to gain the necessary certifications and garner equipment, these programs are often highly exploitative, locking recruits into long-term commitments with low pay, garnished wages to pay back educational and equipment investments, and undesirable schedules. In addition, these positions tend to lack growth potential — for a lot of CDL opportunities, you become a truck driver and you’re going to be a truck driver until you retire or transfer industries.

Recognizing the need for better jobs in the sector, Booster has designed its Service Professional (SP) positions — in which CDL-holding employees drive tankers to collect and deliver fuel — with this in mind. But we also know that the best candidates come from a range of backgrounds, abilities and experiences, so we created the CDL Academy to ensure anyone with a good attitude and the belief that they can bring value to Booster can have access to an SP position. You get what you give, so we invest heavily in potential candidates with the long-term goal of helping them grow and develop meaningful careers. We don’t need exploitative lending programs or contracts to lock people in; we value and respect our drivers with the confidence that they will value and respect us in return.

Booster’s CDL Academy

As a leader in the energy delivery space, Booster is committed to leading by example and investing in talent to develop and retain trusted, skilled team members. We are leading the charge to attract, retain and grow drivers’ careers by offering secure, well-paying positions and great benefits to our drivers. This is why, in Orange County, Portland, the Bay Area, Seattle and Nashville, we offer the CDL Academy to help unlicensed new hires gain the certifications and training needed to work as an SP for Booster — and make money while doing it.

The SP position is unique to Booster; it is more than just a driving role, but also a technical customer service role. Our SPs are the faces of Booster, often interacting with clients and responsible for implementing the PerfectBoost™ — a process developed by Booster operations and learning development teams that not only ensures client satisfaction but prioritizes the safety of our SPs, others and the environment. This requires a specific skill set and a passion for Booster and our mission that can be hard to find. So, we’ve taken matters into our own hands, offering paid training, even for those without a CDL, to ensure that anyone who fits in with Booster’s values can have a chance to help us revolutionize fueling.

Booster’s CDL Academy follows an apprenticeship model, meaning that students have one hour of classroom time per day and paired with real field experience for the rest of their shifts. In this model, students receive hands-on experience, which helps them to learn faster and decide if the job is right for them before investing in getting their license. They learn what they need to get their CDL, how to perform the PerfectBoost™ and what they can do to contribute to Booster’s customer-first culture.

Recognizing that a fulfilling career often relies on long-term growth, we offer CDL Academy graduates a specific career path with clear cut opportunities for higher pay and increased responsibilities and leadership at specific time intervals of employment. We work with each graduate to determine which path — training, fleet management, or something else — best fits their goals, skills and personality. Take Alan Veloz as an example: He was Booster’s first-ever CDL academy graduate, and got his CDL in 57 days. Since then, he has been promoted to a market trainer, allowing him to teach new drivers the ins and outs of this career.

This type of career growth is common here — nearly half (47%) of our Service Professionals have been promoted into higher-level positions, and 53% of our trainers were once SPs. We have several different programs to develop our leaders at all levels of the organization, including Executive Coaches for our up-and-coming mid-level managers.

As Booster continues to grow — we just announced our coast-to-coast expansion into four new markets — our leadership opportunities will grow with us, and we will need dedicated CDL Academy graduates to lead our new and evolving teams.

As the U.S. grapples with supply chain issues, a truck driver shortage, and the Great Resignation, it is crucial that companies working in the trucking industry take action to better the opportunities, attract new workforce, and boost driver retention. Booster’s CDL Academy is a gateway to a meaningful career at Booster and beyond.