The U.S. agriculture industry continues to deal with a widespread farmworker shortage as a result of many factors, including complex immigration laws and a declining interest in agricultural employment. As a result, the gap between available jobs in agriculture and people to fill these jobs is widening.
For Wisconsin’s cranberry industry, shortages in a related industry, namely transportation, may compound the problem and drive the need for creative recruiting solutions. Here are some factors to consider as you plan to line up harvest truck drivers for your farm.
According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), while 2023 showed a slight ease in the post-pandemic driver shortages, that relief is not expected to last long. Projected consumer and freight demand is expected to increase into 2024, exacerbating the challenge.
What is driving the driver shortage? The American Journal of Transportation reports high driver demand coupled with a rapidly retiring workforce. Globally, there are 5 times as many truck drivers aged 55 and older as younger drivers. The long-term outlook, according to researchers, estimates by 2030 a shortage of 160.000 drivers nationally.
While these trucking industry statistics are certainly alarming, could they point toward recruiting opportunities for your farm?
- Exit interviews with retiring truck drivers cite difficult work/life balance and the growing weariness of long hours on the road and sleeping in rest areas or low-end motels as primary reasons for quitting. Could your local-haul farm truck jobs offer some appeal to those tired of long-haul trucking? Could you offer part-time seasonal positions with flexible work hours that might appeal to recent retirees?
- Technical Colleges that offer degrees in Diesel Mechanics or similar majors may have students looking for part-time experience, if you’re willing to accommodate class schedules. Could you offer enough flexibility that your farm driving opportunities would appeal to college students? For example, could additional hoppers or waiting semis expand the trucking day beyond the daylight harvest crew operations, and thereby accommodate student course schedules?
- Trucking industry upheavals (like Yellow Freight*) have resulted in mass layoffs and worker skepticism about job security. Could your efforts towards positive workplace culture and your farm’s long-term stability be appealing to drivers looking for a change?
- Benchmark to make sure your pay rates are competitive. According to online job board, Indeed, harvest truck drivers in Wisconsin expect $17.50-$21.50 (ave. $19.57) per hour. Experience, clean driving records, and CDLs will often drive this wage expectation higher. Push a pencil and see what makes the most sense for your farm. Some drivers may consider per load or “cents per mile” arrangements.
Recruiting during a busy harvest season can certainly be daunting! Remember to leverage your network and think through all the reasons working on your farm could be the perfect opportunity for the right candidate!
*Supply chain icon, Yellow Corp, filed for bankruptcy in July 2023 after nearly 100 years in business. The resulting business closure led to over 30,000 worker layoffs.This article was posted in Cranberry and tagged Cranberries, cranberry harvest, Harvest, truck drivers.