What’s driving the trucker shortage?
The U.S. trucking industry is short of drivers—about 50,000 short, according to an October 2017 estimate from the American Trucking Associations (ATA). The developing driver drought is a critical issue that has captured the attention of the trucking world: In an annual survey conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute, driver shortage ranked first among industry concerns.
A number of factors are contributing to the shortage, ranging from economic trends to demographic and regulatory shifts to the rigors of the job:
- Freight volumes are on the rise, thanks to healthy commerce and a strengthening economy.
- The average driver age for commercial truck drivers in the U.S. is 55, and 25 percent of current drivers near retirement age.
- The trucking industry is having trouble attracting younger people to the profession. One issue is that prospective drivers must be 21 years old to hold an interstate commercial driver’s license. That typically means three years after high school, by which point many potential candidates have pursued jobs in other sectors.
- A range of federal regulations—most recently the Elog mandate put in place in April—require truckers to track the time they work, which can impact productivity, and thus pay.
- The long hours and requirements of the job can limit its appeal. Most drivers—especially newer ones—are on the road for extended periods of time, returning home only a few times a month. Adapting to life on the road (showering at rest stops, limited dietary choices, safety issues, and more) can make the job less appealing to some.
- Drivers must pass a DOT (Department of Transportation) physical at least every two years. Some with specific health issues must do this annually. A lot of times the driver must pay for the physical out of their own pocket.
- Sleep apnea and diabetes can disqualify a driver if certain criteria are not met.
- Carriers cannot find drivers that can pass the required drug test at hire and then randomly throughout their employment.
The ATA estimates that because of industry growth and retirements, the trucking sector will need to recruit nearly 100,000 new drivers every year to keep up with the demand for drivers. The shortage is particularly acute in the long-haul, over-the-road truckload segment.
There are steps the trucking industry can take to help address the need for drivers:
- Try to expand the demographic. For example, women currently make up only 6 percent of the truck drivers. Some observers see veterans seeking career transition after military service as another good potential source of prospective truckers.
- Continue to boost driver wages. The national median for truck driver pay is $53,000, which represents a $7,000 increase from the previous year. For private fleet drivers, the pay increase is up $13,000.
- Decrease time on the road. Trucking companies can address lifestyle issues of the profession by offering route options that are closer to drivers’ homes, reducing the long-haul lifestyle aspects of the job.
The truck driver shortage affects the entire economy and could have a significant impact on supplier costs and shipping delays. Agforce Transport Services monitors and tracks trucking industry developments like the driver shortage to provide informed consultation to customers.
Agforce specializes in customized transportation solutions for our customers’ specific business requirements. To learn more about how we can help address your company’s needs, contact us today for a free consultation. Give us a call at 844-713-6723 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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