Things appear to be looking up in the trucking industry. That’s the opinion of Dave Chesterman, director of recruiting at Carter Express, who joined DriverReach founder and CEO Jeremy Reymer on this week’s episode of Taking the Hire Road to share his thoughts on trucking as it nears a post-pandemic world.

Chesterman joined Carter Express in February after enjoying success as senior manager of talent acquisition-driver recruiting with Walmart and serving previously as vice president of recruiting for Celadon Group.

Over the past year, Chesterman suggests that the biggest challenge for the entire industry was simply the fear of the unknown. The pandemic brought to a halt nearly every aspect of both personal and professional lives, which he said is why many drivers opted to stay put with their current carriers, rather than test the waters elsewhere. That said, he added that driver recruiting remains a challenge and is probably tougher in this current environment.

“Obviously the freight market is booming because of the driver shortage,” Chesterman said. “I believe things are kind of leveling out now; maybe in another eight to 12 months, things will start looking a little more normal for us.” 

However, the industry has adapted well to the ever-changing freight needs of the country, and Chesterman believes the industry is largely on the upswing, as evidenced by pay increases across the board.

He added that Carter Express increased its pay in November, with an additional team pay 

package change in February and a change for its solo drivers more recently. Chesterman said that once pay raises are given, it’s hard to take them back. So while it may be a bit painful for companies to hand over more money, he said it’ll probably be best for the industry in the long run.

“We made some adjustments to our vacation package, so our drivers can earn vacation a little quicker, versus waiting a full year,” Chesterman said, adding that drivers can now be home more often. “Those are some of the things we’ve changed as well as adjusting some routes, trying to turn more into dedicated same-driver, same-route, same-time, every-week routes, because those are more attractive to candidates.”

If there’s any silver lining from the pandemic, Chesterman noted, it’s that the trucking industry is receiving the respect it deserves from the general public.

“It’s interesting, since the pandemic, there’s been a lot more focus on professional truck drivers,” Chesterman said, detailing parts of the highway bill that are dedicated to the construction of additional parking for over-the-road drivers. 

“A lot of people don’t realize that these drivers are out maybe two weeks at a time and they’re sleeping in truck stops, or they’re sleeping in a rest area; they’re living out of that truck. … The pandemic shed some light on that; it was a positive light.”

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More from Taking the Hire Road:

Attracting a new generation to trucking

Engaging tomorrow’s leaders in trucking

Retention through a culture of safety