Leah Shaver

Interview by
Published on
November 18, 2022

In this episode...

How do you attract new drivers and keep your current ones? LOVE THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE WHEEL. This is why driver appreciation is so important: the job is rewarding but challenging with long drives, and tough weather conditions to go through, just to deliver excellence. Our guest in Life By The Mile, Leah Shaver, talks about how gratitude is more than just saying Thank You but making sure companies are focused on making sure truck drivers feel the gratitude. These range from welcoming drivers with good accommodations that make them feel relaxed and at home, making sure they are compensated well, that the trucks run smoothly that they have what they need for their trips, and so on.

Leah Shaver

Leah Shaver is President of the The National Transportation Institute, Driver Compensation and Engagement Subject Matter Expert, SiriusXM Radio Host, Board Member, Keynote Speaker


right now we have an extreme labor shortage problem across the United States so I'm gonna geek it out just a little bit um there are currently on record 1.7 jobs to every potential worker in the United States welcome to life of the mile delivered by freightworks one of America's fastest growing podcasts actually produced by trumpets I need to do something insightful industry Excellence all here right now this life by the mile delivered by freightworks I am so excited why because every time we come to you two times a week here for brave Freight works right we have the opportunity to talk to Industry experts and Leah shaver the president of the national Transportation Institute driver compensation and engagement subject matter expert SiriusXM radio host board member keynote speaker you know what you're you're your entire Vita is so long we spend most of the time going through that so Leah I want to ask you a question how in the world did you get into this world of trucking and Logistics well it should not substarted as a professional driver recruiter okay and where was that um I started I so I went to the University of Illinois and um I was you know making my way through life as a young adult and my very best friend's mother was a driver recruiter working for a a multi-platform motor carrier and they were looking for help on her team and I interviewed with one of the founders of the company and he offered me a job that day and so I started in 2001 in Urbana Illinois as a professional driver recruiter I knew nothing about Trucking nothing about recruiting um I I absolutely was as green as green can be and learned a lot very quickly um did did well but most of all just really felt a connection to providing what I hoped were forever careers for the the professional drivers that I hired for the company you know what I I went to a small school up in the northern part of Illinois called Wheaton College by the way I'm familiar okay sure 25 miles west of Chicago but you know what champagne Urbana Illinois State University of Illinois all the cornfields State Farm it's tell us about that by the way well you just you brought up a lot of memories for me I grew up in Chicagoland area and when I turned 18 and I I decided on the University of Illinois I moved down to school uh three hours south of this city and I thought my life was over as I traversed all of the corn fields sure and you know fast forward about five years later when I um I ended up being asked to stop driver recruiting and focus on human resources because my what I call now my picker for drivers was very strong the folks that would not only be a good fit for the company that but that might stay with the company for a long time I had very good retention rates with the drivers that I hired and so then I moved to rural Minnesota to work at the corporate office and I really thought my life was over as I drove many hours North and um fast forward to my first winter in what I call the frozen tundra and that's a long way from the corn fields of of Southern Illinois I can tell you that but you know what not you you and I probably need to have a podcast that's personal in nature you know I I was a professor at Bethel University okay in the Twin Cities right and and you you have a 612 area code I do um my company is actually headquartered in Mankato Minnesota um and so yeah so so there's it sounds like a lot more to discuss um the bottom line I I you know I I lived in Minnesota for 20 years and frankly um all of my team at NTI is a remote and so while um while I live in Florida my office and my company is based in Minnesota and I have employees not only all over the Midwest but I've got folks in Atlanta in uh Alabama in Florida um and we have a fair number of folks even that work overseas in other countries so um supporting the the I.T tasks and other areas that are well outside of my expertise you know here here at freightworks which delivers the life of the mile we love encouraging people to talk about their companies talk about yours sure NTI was founded in 1995 um and so this is uh just about to be our 28th year in operation um I have been running the company since 2015 and as I mentioned I have 100 remote workers so um while uh you know 2020 changed that a lot for for a lot of teams across the United States and worldwide frankly to have access and ability to work remotely that's always been true for the team at NTI um National Transportation Institute we provide clients with data and support so that they can make critical decisions but specifically and and primarily where professional drivers and professional technicians are vital to the success of the company so um you deliver the podcast we deliver opportunities for fleets to grow we we help them attract additional workers and expand in their marketplace with an appropriately compensated engaged and retained Workforce so I mentioned to you earlier that my initial job and entrance into the industry was in driver recruiting and I am still a very passionate driver recruiter I just get to do that on air working on SiriusXM I get to do that on behalf of our other companies I do that on social media but but in terms of of our company we look at all of the attributes of professional driver compensation which is very complicated I'm sure you know we track pay at the city level across North America and we we not only look at the city level but also the job description and the trailer type we look at compensation and programs for folks before they enter the industry as they Traverse that that new entrant and and trainee period of the first year we look at benefits and retirement and perks we look at demographic X we study the labor market in general which is of course very interesting this year we monitor owner operators we Benchmark compensation changes for contracts between shippers and carriers and then as you mentioned driver engagement is very important to me so we do a fair bit on social media and I happen to have a great side gig working for Sirius XM as you mentioned so I host talk radio programming direct with professional truck drivers well I I'm going to say this to you and it's not gratuitous and it's not patronizing I can feel and hear in your voice how you would be so great on on radio now thank you I'm going to ask you a question sure thing what what what do you believe is actually going on in the marketplace as it relates to the whole area of drivers recruitment are there enough drivers not enough why aren't people coming into the industry I want you to wax eloquent on this because I know you've got background to do it all right well while your listeners have us in their ear only I have the privilege of seeing you so if I go on too long just kind of give me a smoke signal or something sure because this discussion now is my jam ultimately you're asking you know do we in fact have a driver shortage and my answer would be absolutely yes in fact right now we have an extreme labor shortage problem across the United States so I'm gonna geek it out just a little bit there are currently on record 1.7 jobs to every potential worker in the United States however just think to yourself and we don't have to tell anybody you know it's just us here but just think to yourself how many people do you know that are working for cash right now how many folks are are you know in the underground economy are not really working on record there's a fair number and so I would I would venture to say that while on record there's 1.7 jobs to every potential worker um I think the potential worker number is probably a lot higher and so that number is probably well over two to one opportunities to folks that could could go into those opportunities so why is that important the other measure that we monitor here at NCI is is unemployment and anytime unemployment it goes below four percent in the United States there is not only a problem in terms of uh you and I getting our coffee from a well-qualified barista but there is also a problem with potential folks that might be recruited into the trucking industry um right now and for decades we we have been a second third or fourth career option for the folks that enter the industry um that's that wasn't true when I when I started in trucking you know over 20 years ago the folks that I met were a third generation driver their father was a driver their grandfather was a driver they they you know Trucking was in their family in some way um you know what I mentioned to you about not really knowing anything about Trucking that was unique at that time today um that's not the case it's pretty much the norm and and folks really don't want to recommend the job to the Next Generation to their friends so so now we have the next problem what what why why don't people consider Trucking well these I think some people do um but they are maybe not the folks that that are in sconce in it every day and um so you know there's the constraints on the labor Supply but now it's the other things the the things that deter folks um one is uh just in terms of demographics we have an aging Workforce um and Age and and poor health tend to be a problem um and so the conditions of the job sometimes contribute to the poor health aspect um they don't have to but they just have for a long time and so young people coming in they see this wide gap between the folks that are exiting and and of course you know Butch you tell you tell me um I always say you know what happens once I once once you get a little bit older you start to doctor more you have more needs so some of those concerns can be a deterrent um regulation and oversight is a big problem and and uh you know if we were to look at the age of folks that need to come into the the industry to help um combat some of the exits that we have due to age and poor health there's just not enough folks that are interested and and so why um when you drill down even further would that be um though this is changing yes historically new entrants have to go through what I have in my deck my slide deck um you know it looks like an uphill battle almost a very long staircase and that is the journey for a new entrant in the industry um it's pretty unique uh in our industry you really have to pay your dues you have to earn your stripes there's that uphill climb and that's just not the norm in other Industries right now folks really want to zoom to the top um they they really want to have a career path laid out for them um they need you know lifestyle improvements and those are the jobs that that younger folks are waiting for right now they are they are that potential Workforce that I mentioned that are kind of Holding Out for opportunities that offer that balance and we have a difficult time doing that in trucking it's not impossible and folks work with us at NTI to kind of create those those great jobs but um but it is a challenge for most fleets folks this is Leah shaver she's the president of the national Transportation Institute but beyond that you know what I've already learned in our short conversation you're passionate yeah have you ever had a person tell you that um as a matter of fact it's not hanging on my wall um because as you can see in folks listening can't see uh but on my wall is some artwork that is um it is a a program and a movement that we started at NTI um that's you know says we love truckers and we we um the the idea behind that was I I was at a conference speaking um and I met Mark Coulson he's the president of the Alabama Trucking Association another very passionate leader in the industry sounds like you've met and um and he was he was talking on a CEO panel about how um you know there's this big campaign and it says I love trucks or I heart trucks and he said you know if we want to improve the image in trucking if we want to improve the number of folks that want to join us we have to stop looking at these inadamate objects and saying we love them and and talk about the people behind the wheel and I was like yes Hallelujah you know in the speaking my language so um so we started a movement uh We Heart We Heart truckers and um everything that that we do and support in the industry um and the programs that we suggest the the knowledge um that we want folks to to stay on top of all should be thinking every every aspect of the job and every individual that works at the company should come in and say not only do I love what I do but I love truckers you know I love the folks that are behind the wheel so in any event um that was a long way of answering that while it says we love truckers behind my shoulder for many years there was a piece of artwork that was bought for me by my first boss my long-term boss that I I work for at a motor carrier and it was passion um that is typically what has been used to describe me you know what Leah I I I I I'm loving already this conversation and I'm gonna not like it when it ends which it will run about 40 minutes but you know what I love when Josh farmer the founder of freightworks you know we're a asset based carrier here in Western North Carolina you know 150 drivers we're growing We Believe by the way life of the mile is the fastest growing podcast delivered actually by a trucking company I love when you talk about drivers because our passion here at life of the mile is to tell the incredible story of drivers I mean for example I got rid of my office I'm here at freightworks one Studio Round the Corner is the driver's lounge and I love when I met a driver I I I had no background round in trucking and Logistics none you know and uh and the drivers love knowing that I don't know anything and they'll tell me my truck's broken can you fix it and I can't but um but anyway a driver not too long ago told me about yeah we we drive and we got six ferrets that are with us and we got a dog or a cat or whatever people don't understand the true stories of the people that make America work right um well that deliver America right that deliver North America is actually what I say as I open and close on Sirius XM shows um you know these are the folks that are are delivering every day and um they do they do absolutely deserve our gratitude for safely delivering all of the goods that we enjoy on a daily basis um and not only enjoy but that we need but more importantly um you know I think that gratitude goes a step further and it's not just in hearing or saying thank you in response to a good deed or a job well done it's in that day to day right um you know it's in how we engage with them from before they join us to all the way up to or after the point that they retire hopefully in good health not not exiting due to a health issue um it's how we communicate with them not only on the road at home at shippers at receivers at truck stops you know um take a take a ride to your network truck stops is was a recent blog that I I put out there because I was traveling and you know we want we want drivers to be excited to come to work and to do the job then we need to not greet them with trash or the inability to to sleep or you know rest to shower in Clean safe accommodations not only for men but for women too um you know it it comes down to their paycheck and and the work that they do and feeling and seeing that they're compensated for all of of the work that they're doing in an appropriate way in the same way that you and I have been able to enjoy during our career and then focusing on their health their Wellness you know what it what they need in order not only to stay qualified um but to feel good as they do the job to to be to be able to go home um to their family to their friends to be a part of their community and Society in general not just on our behalf but on their own and so um you know gratitude and and loving truckers and passion and all of that put together it has to come through in these other ways and um but you know you mentioned fixing the truck and in today's world where there's a shortage of parts and new trucks there that comes through in quickly getting them in the shop in communicating in um you know I modeled by the way my first recruiting team um after my my maintenance experience with my Acura um you know Acura has an amazing communication and service system for their customers and I modeled how I set up my recruiting department on the maintenance experience that I had at Acura because our drivers have maintenance experiences every day as well and part of how we serve them is also at the shop it's in the recruiting department it's in the driver's room so in any event um there's a lot that goes into what what we do and and certainly what they need from Moss out on the road you know based on your considerable experience what are the things drivers need to hear when they're out of the road and they're talking to a driver manager

um I already planned your next three loads I I've got you set up um I have I have your entire week of you are very quick you you were very you were very quick in answering the question and I I it was like setting up a volleyball for you to spike you you knew you knew the right response but seriously what do drivers when they call in what do they need a driver manager to say or year you know frankly in my not so humble opinion if a driver is calling in it better be to say hello otherwise the issue that they're calling with should have already been addressed long before they had to hit that dial that's good um so so certainly um if they're calling in that in today's world since you know while we have phones they're typically not so much utilized for a phone call anymore unless we want to you know it's talking to our family because we're away from home so um if they're calling in it's it's I I'm already on top of your concern I am already on it and and I have a solution um and again I would say uh maybe second to that then would be I've already mapped out your week um I appreciate everything that you're doing how can I help you how can I how can I make uh your day better you know what can I do for you um I think that uh generally speaking once a once a driver has an issue issue and they're they're calling in to have to be in a queue and not utilizing technology to improve some of those gaps that that I just mentioned um that's probably a Miss on behalf of of a carrier today there's there's so much technology and in fact I I worked on a program for a long time to improve the delivery of technology to drivers so that um I'll give you an example in the in this Tech uh if the driver was broke down they it would you know map out where they were a lot of companies have that right because we've got such good GPS technology in the truck um but but then further set up in the program was like you know text messages going out to the driver hey we're on top of it your service has been scheduled someone will be there you know here's the countdown and then um in their software it was set up to send out a gift certificate to I don't remember name the fast food Wendy's or something and I said let me ask you there they're broke down they're on the side of the road they're waiting for service you're communicating in a fabulous way and and now you've identified that maybe they're hungry let me ask you how are they going to get to Wendy's exactly you know might we change it to ubereats so my my point to you is um

thank you we can better hopefully you know better yet good for the drivers that that has impacted but how can we make life easier for you is I think what every driver would love to hear on the other side but but ultimately I think if you ask them they would say I've already pre-planned you your week is set up and most importantly you know in terms of their time it's respecting their time and how do we do that get them in and out you know at the shipper and receiver locations that that that that is so good before before we're done I want to ask you this question it's more personal okay sure what was your first job

um so my first job I well like for cash my my first job was mowing lawns and I was nine years old and I had all the teenagers yeah mowed the Lawns and I said I'll get you the gas I get 60 you get 40 so that was my first job technically speaking my first job was a was a babysitter however you will appreciate with our Chicago connection that my first um my first job according to the Social Security Administration was working for Marshall Fields really in the housewares Department in sales um as you as you could see I am rather convincing when I'm really excited about something and I love to cook yes and uh and so I worked in the the house Source Department of Marshall Fields you did I did that is so that's so incredible and of course people around the country that have not lived in Chicago may not even know about Marshall Fields but which is it was bought by Macy's so if you ever do go into a department store which I think is fewer and fewer every year Macy's did end up buying Marshall Fields and now sells frango mints across the country something you could use to only be able to enjoy in Chicago you in fact are extremely interesting all right uh you you are uh I I'm going to ask you this before we transition to the end if you if you had a group of a hundred high school students that were standing in front of you and they're all wondering should I go to college I'm willing to work or should I go to a different industry and you were making the apologetic you were making the case for consider Trucking what would you say so I I'm lucky I didn't know you were going to ask me this question however fortunately I just spoke at Iowa State University I don't know three weeks ago yes and they asked me the same question in Ames right yes sir yes okay it's by the way it was 22 degrees it was very cold um and I had forgotten what it felt like for my both my nose and my eyes to run at the same time as I walked into the office I don't believe I've ever heard I I've been to 104 countries I've traveled around the world I don't think anybody's ever said that in a sentence before well as you said I'm interesting so I guess yes you are to the list so maybe that needs to be cut out so in any event what I did say though um I you know fun fact about me I'm a new mom I just had a baby for the first time at 43 years old excellent yes um but prior to that I was a foster mom for six years and I'll you know hopefully I will Foster again as well um but in any event you know one thing that we always said was no matter what you do whether you go to school whether you go to work you have to do the best you can do that's your full-time job so if if school is going to be what you choose we want you to be all in and we will completely support you in every way so that you can solely focus on school if working is what you choose that's great in any work that you do as long as you are in unit 100 percent and you do the very best you can then that's that's what I would suggest I really don't think that that school is the solution for every individual I don't think that work is the solution for every individual um I think that everyone does have the very same potential out of the gate uh you know whatever their choice is but but ultimately we just encourage them at least in our family to just do the very best you can and be all in whatever the choice is now of course my son Butch he will be a truck driver of course and and and we have a lot of other items that I hope offline we we can talk about I you know I I we I I have two adopted children a son from Korea a daughter from Russia my russian-born daughter has five children she adopted out of foster care in Colorado Springs amazing I would we'll have to connect about it we we would love that but we're coming to the place by the way this Leah shaver she is the president of the national Transportation Institute driver compensation and engagement subject matter expert and more SiriusXM radio host board member keynote speaker yeah you know what I I'm throwing away all the papers on on you it would take a whole program to talk about it but you know what we're going to do now we have a gift for you oh I love gifts you do all right yes okay so so I'm asking William to make sure that he hears what you're going to say we we've got options okay so this is the freightworks one cap okay it's got the logo there

and have you been to the Mid-America truck show I have yes I went for the first time it was over stimulation I'm I'm I'm just telling you no kidding okay all right so we debuted this it's a Life by the mile hat and it has that patriotic theme these went preferably like hotcakes yes right away I have to say I I am a patriot through and through I I do love the Patriotic theme okay well that that's that's number two um and winter is upon us so we have these beanie beanies okay thank you thank you for I'm not quite sure different parts of the country call it different things yes gotta say I live in Naples Florida I'm gonna pass on the beanie okay all right okay all right so which of those three might we send you might I request the Patriotic hat this one yes all right yes great all right this life of the mile delivered by freightworks every Tuesday and Thursday or Wednesday and Friday we have the opportunity to have incredible guests like today and you know what the great thing is to know that America keeps moving forward as we keep supporting those that help thanks yeah absolutely true thank you for having me thanks for watching this episode you know life by the mile delivered by freightworks is one of the newest largest and fastest growing podcasts actually produced by trucking company now we want you to like and share this episode if you'd like to see more episodes click here and make sure that you subscribe to this channel by clicking here we'll see you there

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