Will More Money Resolve Trucking Shortage Problems?
Many trucking companies seem to think that if they throw enough money at the job, they will resolve the trucking shortage, which currently sits at 61,000. By 2028, that number could swell to over 160,000 drivers. Trucking companies estimate that they will need to hire 1.1 million more drivers in the coming decade to keep up with the steeply growing demand.
According to an ATA survey, private fleets pay exceptionally well, with the salary rising from $73,000 in 2013 to $86,000 in 2021. This makes it the perfect career for up-and-coming truckers, but will it offer enough to keep drivers in the industry? Many people have raised that question. The extra pay hasn’t resolved the problem because many truckers have chosen to use the excess to stay home longer with their families.
Many over-the-road truckers spend days, weeks, or even months on the highways living out of truck stops. That has made it so that not everyone can handle that type of job, and not everyone wants that type of job. At the same time, the ATA continues to push for legislators to lower the truck driving age from 21 to 18 to meet the demands of the supply chain.
The Perfect Storm
The COVID-19 pandemic sent millions of consumers to the internet for orders, which caused a flood of demand that truckers were having a hard time meeting because of the 61,000 driver shortage. All of this combined with skyrocketing pay for truck drivers. Even still, we see how that hasn’t persuaded many to take the long-haul trucking jobs.
Spawning Outrageous Turnover Rates
The trucking industry has always had a high turnover rate of 90 percent with some larger carriers. When trucking companies began to offer higher pay rates, it fueled an even higher turnover rate. To put that into perspective, the tech industry has a 13.2-percent turnover rate. Most people think of that as a high turnover rate, yet it’s less than a job in trucking. However, the thing about the turnover rate in trucking is that most drivers don’t leave the industry. Instead, they bounce over to a company with better benefits and higher pay. This has fueled fierce competition among the trucking companies for the best drivers. Currently, the turnover rate sits at 95 percent because of the higher pay rates.
While drivers appreciate the higher pay rate, they keep their eyes on better opportunities. Everyone loves to earn more cash, which has fueled the competitive nature of the trucking industry. You always feel a temptation to go elsewhere for work. In addition, different companies offer unique benefits. For example, some will provide more regular routes and time at home for their drivers, which has become increasingly important.
Higher Pay Having the Opposite Effect
As you can see, resolving the problem may not be as simple as throwing cash at it. While it may attract more drivers to the industry, it leads to high turnover rates. Along with that, many drivers have used the extra pay to spend less time on the road. That can, however, be advantageous to some drivers who have young children at home. They can spend more time with their child. Still, it hurts freight because it doesn’t quell the demand.
Doesn’t Resolve a Hard Life on the road
Trucking, like some other industries, becomes a hard life away from the family. You might spend one out of every five weeks at home, and not everyone is well suited to this lifestyle. You have many drivers who quit soon after joining the trucking industry because they can’t take the homesickness and the stress. The money can’t address this problem, and legislators never found a way to address it.
What are some of the stresses that drivers face on the road? Some of the everyday things that you encounter include:
- Dangerous driving
- Long hours on the road
- Irregular hours
You remain alone in the truck a lot of the time, which requires a special kind of person to handle it. Trucking companies can find workers, but one of the biggest problems is how they often switch to other companies. Statistics show that most truckers change jobs every year. You don’t have to worry about being labeled a job hopper unless you switch jobs every three to four months in this business. Small companies don’t experience a high turnover rate, but they still see people changing often.
Pay Raised Twice within the Year to Stay Competitive
Trucking companies exist where they raised the pay twice within a single year to keep their drivers happy. One such example of a company like that is Roehl. Within a single year, they increased driver pay from $4,000 extra to $6,000 extra. That adds up to a nine and 11 percent increase.
Drug Tests: Part of the Reason for the Trucking Shortage
An estimated 54,000 truck drivers received barring from driving since the federal clearinghouse began to alert carriers about drivers that had DUIs or drug convictions. Still, most say that they favor the clearinghouse because they don’t want drunk drivers or those into drinking and driving on the road. The new law first took effect in 2020.
Before drivers can participate in trucking again, they must first complete the return-to-duty process. They must also show a negative follow-up test. Marijuana consistently ranks as one of the biggest culprits of what sees drivers banned from trucking. It far outpaces meth and cocaine, which held the second and third highest violations. While it may make the roads safer, no one can argue that it hurts an already exacerbated trucking shortage.
Resolving the Trucking Shortage through More Than Money
We need to address the problems that have made trucking a less-than-desirable job for a lot of people. Throwing money at the problem has only made it so that the truckers take the money while still trying to circle the issues that face the industry. First, this trucking shortage isn’t anything new, and it has lasted at least for 15 years to one degree or another. The issue is that most expect the problem to worsen.
The pay will undoubtedly help, but it may prove beneficial to change the marketing around trucking. What worked in the past doesn’t work for the millennial generation as fewer and fewer people want this job. One of the things they could do is take the trucking jobs and show them to the high schools. Show people the advantages of this line of work and what makes it fun. For example, you will see all the lower 48 states, and you have the chance to visit Mexico and Canada.
In schools, you see little marketing from the trucking companies to bring in new drivers. This may stem from the fact that you need to be 21 or older to drive long-haul trucking. However, what sense does that make when they let 18-year-olds drive tanks, planes, and other dangerous military vehicles. It often leads to people going into another line of work first. The dire need also makes it so that legislators need to act and fast to stem the bleeding.
Treating Workers Right
Many truckers complain about companies treating them poorly. Poor treatment, combined with poor pay, has led to a high turnover rate. This has made it so that truckers have no loyalty to their companies at the end of the day. It’s not that paying truckers more won’t help, but they need to address the other problems. If they try to attack the issue with cash, they will soon find that it only helps to an extent.
Some of the examples of poor treatment would be using fraudulent signup bonuses. They often get treated like they have no rights, and trucking companies will pull a bait-and-switch tactic on drivers.
Pay Increasing but Trucking Shortage Remains
One of the signs that throwing money at the problem won’t work is that while trucking companies continue to raise their rates, people still don’t want this job. Looking beyond the pay will help. For example, one of the things that truckers love is when they can come home more often to be with their families. If trucking companies allowed that more often, they may see that more people would want these jobs. Finding a better work-life balance for truckers could help with making this job more desirable. Pay may act as a starting point, but we also need to look at the end goals.
Many carriers and shippers could benefit from becoming more driver-centric. We spend so little time thinking about the drivers who deliver our goods. Putting ourselves in their shoes can help us understand where they’re coming from and what they need to feel happy at their jobs. Many companies don’t treat drivers enough like an investment in their business.
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