The Growing Transportation Gap: Conflicts of Interest

U.S. trucking companies may face a 30 percent surge in wage bills by 2014, according to a Bloomberg news report. At the same time, rising demand for freight shipments is clashing with the longest driver shortage on record. In fact Bloomberg reports that the current shortfall will double in a year to about 300,000 full-time positions, or 10 percent of the workforce.

“A gap between cargo demand and the driver supply adds to evidence that the freight industry is recovering,” the report states. However, that good news is followed by the bad news that while freight is growing at close to 4 percent a year, the truck-driver population is growing at less than 1 percent a year. That is exacerbated by the fact that according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Operational Model, employers must assess applicants’ driving histories and weed out bad risks—further shrinking the pool of applicants.

Adding to the forces making truck driving less attractive is the fact that truckers are paying more for diesel fuel, which averaged 30 percent more per gallon this year through Aug. 23 than the same period in 2010, putting them at a competitive disadvantage to railroads’ superior efficiency, Bloomberg concludes.

Analysts at TranSystems, a logistics consulting firm, comment that driving a truck is hard work and many new drivers do not fare well. While jobs are wide open, particularly in rural regions like the Dakotas and in remote service areas, there aren’t many takers.

“The people that lost their positions in the recession are reluctant to move, do not want these jobs and are limited by factors that are somewhat unique to this day and age,” TranSystems states in a recent commentary. “The fact remains that the U.S. has dueling employment issues—find work for those that want it and find workers for those that need the help. Unfortunately solving the two issues involves two entirely different strategies.”

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