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Recent estimates of a shortage of 300,000 truck drivers have drawn attention from media across the nation, but a report from the Haslam College of Business reveals an even broader crisis in supply chain talent.

Higher supply chain volumes and greater operational complexities are creating increased demand for logistics professionals at every level of the supply chain, from the front lines to senior executives. As the economy continues to recover and more baby boomers reach retirement age, those shortages are likely only to increase.

In the recently released white paper Supply Chain Talent, Our Greatest Resource, UT’s supply chain faculty uncovers ten talent myths that are impeding growth, as well as eight best practices from benchmark companies for analyzing, finding, recruiting, developing, and retaining talent that meets a company’s long-term supply chain needs.

The report, sponsored by Ryder, a leading fleet management and supply chain solutions provider, outlines trends driving changes in supply chain talent. The speed of commerce and global nature of business have caused supply chain management to evolve significantly, and more companies now are looking to leverage their critical logistics functions as a strategic competitive advantage. This means the skills necessary to be successful in a supply chain role are more diverse, complex, and broad than ever, creating a challenging talent crunch within the supply chain functions of businesses across every industry.

Modern supply chain professionals must think beyond their technical role, contextualize their contribution to the business, manage outside vendors, and possess communications skills that transcend global cultural barriers. UT’s research shows that this managerial skill set is already scarce in the supply chain industry and that most executives struggle to strategically recruit for their talent gaps.

“More than 90 percent of CEOs recognize that they need to change their strategies for managing talent,” said Shay Scott, director of UT’s executive MBA in supply chain management and co-author of the report. “We want to establish, first and foremost, that supply chain talent is a critical priority that must be addressed now. In addition to addressing the truck driver shortage, this report gives executives a strategy to begin building toward long-term solutions for whatever talent gap they have within their supply chains — from front-line staff to high-level executives.”

“The truck driver shortage is an immediate concern to many businesses, especially those who are managing their own fleets,” said John Diez, president of dedicated transportation solutions at Ryder. “The study provides creative solutions to that issue, while also uncovering challenges and strategies to address broader talent gaps that have additional long-term effects on the global supply chain. These issues also create a compelling case for leveraging a third-party logistics specialist that can help companies by providing much-needed expertise and infrastructure to support these critical functions.”

The report suggests that executives source talent like any other resource. Raw talent should be procured via systems like internship programs and relationships with top universities, while existing labor reserves are further refined internally through mentorship and educational opportunities. The exception to this premise is the report’s emphasis on diversity in recruitment, which it advocates at all stages of the talent management spectrum.


Katie Bahr (865-974-3589,

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,