The trucker driver shortage is at record levels.
A new report recently released by the American Trucking Association found that the industry needed 60,800 more drivers at the end of 2018 to meet the country’s demands for freight services.
“Over the past 15 years, we’ve watched the shortage rise and fall with economic trends, but it ballooned last year to the highest level we’ve seen to date,” said ATA chief economist Bob Costello.
“The combination of a surging freight economy and carriers’ need for qualified drivers could severely disrupt the supply chain. The increase in the driver shortage should be a warning to carriers, shippers and policymakers because if conditions don’t change substantively, our industry could be short just over 100,000 drivers in five years and 160,000 drivers in 2028.”
The report details the factors that contribute to the shortage, including an aging driver population, increases in freight volumes and competition from other blue-collar careers. . While the report covers the entire trucking industry, the bulk of the shortage is in the over-the-road for-hire truckload market.
“The trucking industry needs to find ways to attract more and younger drivers,” Costello said. “Right now, the average age of an over-the-road driver is 46 years old, and almost as alarming is that the average age of a new driver being trained is 35 years old.
“Whether by removing barriers for younger drivers to begin careers as drivers, attracting more demographic diversity into the industry, or easing the transition for veterans, we need to do more to recruit and retain drivers,” he said. “That includes increasing pay, which happened at a brisk pace last year, to keep pace with demand, addressing lifestyle factors like getting drivers more time at home, and improving conditions on the job like reducing wait times at shipper facilities.”
In order to meet the nation’s freight demand, the report says the trucking industry will need to hire 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade – an average of 110,000 per year to replace retiring drivers and keep up with growth in the economy.
Those in the industry are offering some solutions to the problem.
“Having been in the industry for more than 30 years, driver shortage is a topic we’ve been talking about for the last 20 of those years,” said Ray Greer, CEO of Omnitracs. “Until we, as an industry, take steps to improve the quality of life for drivers, eliminate unproductive utilization, and allow them to earn more money with less complications, we will not attract the workforce this industry needs to support the demand
"Looking ahead to the next decade, we will see many shifts within the transportation industry, some of which will be related to how carriers work to attract and retain drivers. It's critical we all look for solutions to close the gap and avoid disruptions to the overall supply chain. As drivers are an integral asset to the industry, it’s important now more than ever that we identify solutions to support driver needs and attract new talent. This includes reassessing pay and improving working conditions to boost driver retention, as well as thinking about ways to encourage other demographics – millennials, women, veterans – to begin their careers in transportation. If we put the driver first and continue to work to remove barriers, we’ll see a long-lasting impact that is beneficial for all parties involved.”