Truck drivers are a vital link in the supply chain that keeps the American economy moving smoothly. Without truck drivers, no container, straight truck or trailer can move, and trade, commerce, and the economy will suffer.
Recently, Bob Costello, an American Trucking Associations senior vice president and chief economist, made a statement that should give many Americans pause. He predicts over the next decade there’ll be a truck driver shortage. Without enough truck drivers, the cost of transportation and logistics will rise, and risks to supply chains could become dire.
- 1 The Cause Of The Truck Driver Shortage
- 2 An Ongoing Problem
- 3 A Truck Driver Shortage Means Opportunities Abound
- 4 A Coordinated Effort Required
- 5 A Warning Shot
- 6 Even With 10 Million CDL Holders, There Is A Truck Driver Shortage
- 7 900,000 OTR Drivers Needed
- 8 Truck Driver Forecasts
- 9 Many Drivers Prefer LTL Carriers
- 10 Small Fleets More Attractive
- 11 Addressing The Truck Driver Shortage With Legislation
- 12 A Common-Sense Approach
The Cause Of The Truck Driver Shortage
The primary cause of the shortage of truck drivers is the lack of qualified truck drivers to fill the vacant jobs. The problem could worsen if a significant number of new truck drivers aren’t trained and added to the workforce soon. This is an issue all across the country. Companies need more drivers to fulfill their contracts. It’s surprising that more young, unemployed, people are not gravitating to this lucrative field. One which offers excellent pay and a pick of the type of freight and companies with which drivers decide to work.
An Ongoing Problem
The shortage of truck drivers isn’t a new problem. Trucking companies regularly have a tough time finding, hiring and retaining enough truck drivers, especially during periods of economic growth. This is particularly true for truckload carriers. The most recent shortage of truck drivers can be traced back to the economic recovery in the U.S. that began in around 2009. Since that time, there has been a growing need for qualified truck drivers to fill these vital jobs. Without them, today’s vibrant economic growth will be forced to come to a screeching halt.
A Truck Driver Shortage Means Opportunities Abound
Truck driving is a very lucrative career. Companies all over the country are always looking to hire qualified truck drivers and pay them good salaries. Truck driver training schools nationwide offer affordable training programs that can get drivers the skills they need to take advantage of this excellent employment opportunity. Countless truck drivers started while they were young and generated the finances they needed to purchase homes, land, and businesses. Even people who got into driving trucks later in life have been able to build substantial nest eggs while taking care of the needs of themselves and their families.
A Coordinated Effort Required
In addition to an influx of new truck drivers, to address the consistent and persistent need for qualified truck drivers once and for all, trucking companies, shippers and logistics providers must work together. Otherwise, the cost of transportation, logistics and maintaining the supply chains nationwide will rise substantially. That can lead to disruption, chaos and a host of other adverse outcomes for the transportation and logistics industries and the country. It would be a shame to allow an unwillingness to work together to address the shortage of truck drivers to drag down the economy and countless companies with it.
A Warning Shot
Bob Costello, the ATA chief economist, and senior vice president called the dire truck driver forecasts a ‘warning shot’ to the transportation and related industries about the grim future that is possible if the issue is not quickly and adequately addressed. Issues about safety enforcement, medical testing, working conditions and the number of daily working hours for truck drivers, all have to be considered if the shortage of qualified and interested truck drivers is to be resolved. Looking at recent turnover numbers, demand projections and the number of truck drivers trained each year, and it looks like by 2026 the trucking industry will be 176,000 drivers short.
Even With 10 Million CDL Holders, There Is A Truck Driver Shortage
According to data from the Department of Labor, there are 10 million CDL holders. However, only about 3.5 million are active, available, truck drivers. About half of those are heavy and tractor-trailer drivers. Some of them drive dump trucks and cement trucks. According to Department of Labor figures, the number of people who drive for-hire tractor-trailers and heavy trucks is 864,000. The problem is that not all of them are over-the-road drivers. The ATA’s Bob Costello estimates only 500,000 of the CDL holders are over the road drivers. He estimates the shortage of OTR driver to be about 50,000.
900,000 OTR Drivers Needed
Costello estimated that with the number of OTR drivers that retire or leave the industry each year and the projected growth in demand, over the next decade the transportation industry will need to add 900,000 OTR drivers. Without them, the nation’s economy will suffer. Costello explained the attractive retention steps like increasing the pay of drivers had helped many companies to keep their drivers. The all-time high for truck driver turnover was 136% in 2005, research shows. But smarter, more aggressive, retention efforts have helped to lower those numbers ever since.
Truck Driver Forecasts
In the past, truckers averaged between 125,000 and 130,000 miles annually. Better efficiency methods have reduced it to about 100,000 miles a year. The federal safety mandate that requires installing electronic logging devices (ELD) to monitor the Record of Duty Status of truck drivers has played a role in reducing the number of miles truckers drive each day before stopping to rest. Improved efficiency at shipping facilities can help drivers increase productivity and earn more money by wasting less time waiting. This can attract more truckers and reduce the forecasted shortage of drivers.
Many Drivers Prefer LTL Carriers
One segment of the trucking industry that had seemed to be mostly immune to the shortage of drivers is the less than truckload or LTL carriers. Many truck drivers find several things about the LTL carriers very attractive. Drivers that work for LTL carriers can get home almost every night, earn higher pay and rarely if ever, have to help unload the freight in their vehicles. However, even with all the perks, after decades of getting all the drivers they needed, the truck driver shortage has also begun to hit the LTL carriers. Recently, they have started having a difficult time finding and keeping safe, experienced, drivers.
Small Fleets More Attractive
Another segment of the trucking industry that has been a favorite of truck drivers is small fleets. Over the past six years, truck drivers have chosen to work with small trucking companies that have less than 100 trucks over larger companies at a ratio of two to one. Most truck drivers prefer to work with small companies with six trucks or less. Research shows truck drivers join small trucking companies in higher numbers because it makes it easier to transition to working for themselves. For a large number of truckers, working with small companies is much more satisfying and makes a great stepping stone to independent business.
Addressing The Truck Driver Shortage With Legislation
The growing shortage of truck drivers has gotten the attention of U.S. Senator Todd Young, a Republican from the state of Indiana. He has proposed the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy(DRIVE)Safe Act. The bill would make it legal for truck drivers under 21 years of age to cross state lines. Federal law currently prohibits truck drivers that are younger than 21 from doing so. But, with the need for a growing number of truck drivers to keep the economy in Indiana flourishing, Young reintroduced the legislation as a way to help. The young truck drivers would have to complete a 400-hour apprenticeship program where they work under the tutelage of an experienced truck driver with an excellent safety record.
A Common-Sense Approach
Indiana Motor Truck Association president Gary Langston calls the proposed legislation a common-sense approach to the problem of the shortage of truck drivers. He points out that safety will be a focus of the proposed training program and pairing the new drivers with the best, safest, most experienced truck drivers will help to ensure the young drivers are adequately trained and prepared. He said the influx of new truck drivers will not only help trucking companies but will help to reduce the cost of transporting goods and this will be of great benefit to all consumers.
Truck drivers are a vital link in the supply chain that keeps the American economy moving smoothly. Without truck drivers, no container, straight truck or trailer can move, and trade, commerce, and the economy will suffer. Recently, Bob Costello, an American Trucking Associations senior vice president and chief economist, made a statement that should give many Americans pause. He predicts over the next decade there’ll be a truck driver shortage. Without enough truck drivers, the cost of transportation and logistics will rise, and risks to supply chains could become dire.