Truck industry leader blames big business for driver shortage

Solutions in 2020 for the Truck Driver Shortage

Truck industry leader blames big business for driver shortage

Inflation isn’t solely to blame for higher price tags on goods. There’s also a shortage of truck drivers. Without enough truckers to get commodities from Point A to Point B, the cost of shipping has gone up.

any industry, trucking has gone through phases of both too few and more than enough willing, eligible potential employees. However, the last few years have seen a steady increase in the freight business along with a steady decline in drivers.

Current truck driver shortage solutions include higher pay, shorter routes, and opening intrastate routes to younger drivers. Each of those ideas are good ones, but they may not be enough to keep up with the growing shortage, let alone get ahead of it.

Technology may provide the ultimate answer with trucks that eventually won’t need drivers.

What is Causing a Shortage of Truck Drivers?

To pinpoint truck driver shortage solutions, it’s useful to look at what’s causing the shortage. First, there’s increasing demand.

Over the last two decades, the amount of tonnage shipped across the country has steadily gone up. Yet, the number of U.S. truck drivers hasn’t fluctuated much, remaining near 3 million.

That means roughly the same number of drivers have been hauling an increasing amount of goods.

Next, Baby Boomers nearing retirement age make up the bulk of working drivers. At the same time, the next generation—the one that should be ready to take over jobs as they become available—is about 12 percent smaller. Therefore, there are more job opportunities than there are people to fill them.

Additionally, some say safety, lifestyle, and pay are partially to blame for the shortage. Truck drivers spend a lot of time on the road away from home. That way of life can be difficult to deal with, and it contributes to the high divorce rate among drivers.

Plus, trucking is listed as one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. The increased freight demand coupled with the driver shortage puts more demands on working truckers.

Considering there were 918 fatalities in 2016 and 80 percent of those resulted from vehicle accidents, the danger factor is a real concern. And that’s all aside from the pay.

It’s discouraging to compare what a paid-by-the-mile driver brings home to the hours he spends on the job. Industry pros seeking truck driver shortage solutions are taking all of these issues into account.

Stats and Info About the Shortage

Before we get into truck driver shortage solutions, let’s take a look at some of the statistics and information that affect the situation.

For instance, more than half of truck drivers are 45 and older. Plus, there are currently about 1,871,700 driver jobs and it’s projected that there will be close to 2 million by 2026. With 55 percent of the driver base looking to retire over the next 15 years, that means filling more than a million vacated jobs over the next few years.

In fact, between the retiring workforce and increased demand, the shortage is growing too fast for the industry to keep up:

  • 2016—the shortage was over 36,000.
  • 2018—it was around 63,000.
  • 2026—it’s projected there will be a driver shortage of 175,000.

Furthermore, trucking has one of the highest turnover rates of any industry at about 90 to 100 percent. Still, with the need to move more than 10 billion tons of freight every year, the U.S. economy would grind to a halt without truckers.

Truck Driver Shortage Solutions

There’s not much that can be done about the smaller workforce ready to take on driving jobs. That’s why most truck driver shortage solutions focus on controllable issues. Some ideas include:

1) Improve the Culture—Fleets can minimize the downside of driving by implementing shorter routes. For example, a driver takes a trailer to a drop off point where another driver picks it up and takes it either to the destination or another drop-off. Shorter routes mean drivers get to be home every day.

2) Adjust the Pay—Issues detours, bad road conditions, and increased traffic in metro areas eat away at drivers’ income if they’re paid by the mile.

One suggestion for making the pay more attractive is to offer signing, fuel economy, and safety bonuses.

Other ideas include paying a labor fee to drivers who have to load and unload their freight and implementing flexible shipping rates that would allow fleets to pay drivers by the hour.

3) Attracting New Hires—Fleets can help brand-new drivers by paying for their training/schooling and the cost of getting their CDL.

One way is by offering a program that trains them to meet the criteria for interstate transport. Also, when recruiting, consider appealing to underutilized groups, such as women, for example.

Less than 7 percent of U.S. truck drivers are female.

4) Step Up Onboarding Procedures—Get to know who you’re hiring, and keep the conversation going even after they’re part of the company.

That could be anything as structured as a breakfast or dinner meeting every other month with management and drivers to managers being present each morning as drivers head out.

Every chance you offer drivers to check in with administration strengthens the relationship and the workplace environment.

Proposed Legislation for Truck Driver Shortage Solutions

The one way to increase workforce size is to open it up to a wider range of people. A driver must only be 18 years old to qualify for a CDL. However, licensed truck drivers have to be 21 or older to drive freight across state lines. Congress’s contribution to truck driver shortage solutions is to drop that intrastate age to 18.

While that would help fleets by extending the hiring pool, not everyone is convinced it’s a safe move. Younger drivers (those under 21) tend to be involved in more fatal crashes.

Factor in a teen piloting a semi hauling 40,000 pounds through the city or on the highway and you’ll see why the intrastate age minimum is 21. Still, even insurance specialists feel that there’s a happy and safe medium. Fleets can do thorough background checks and testing.

They can offer extra development opportunities, too. Those could include apprentice programs or shadowings that pair newer, younger drivers with older, more experienced ones.

Autonomous Trucks Could be the Answer

Although completely autonomous trucks aren’t quite a reality yet, many are looking to driverless semis as one of the more promising truck driver shortage solutions. Even now, while they’re still testing, there are fewer responsibilities for the human pilots.

Of course, the drivers still need a CDL, but the technology frees them up to multitask, catching up on paperwork or studying for continuing education or classes they’d need if they wanted to open their own business.

For instance, heavy duty shop owners’ salaries are lucrative and repair shops are a related business truckers appreciate and understand.

The extra time and decreased driving fatigue could be framed as perks when recruiting new hires or viewed by fleet management as supporting arguments for lower pay. Either way, autonomous trucks could end up being both the short and long-term answer to the truck driver shortage.


Who is to Blame for the Truck Driver Shortage? – Redwood Logistics

Truck industry leader blames big business for driver shortage

The United States is currently experiencing a shortage of truck drivers that is a contributing factor to the rise in shipping rates and higher prices for many types of goods delivered by truck. According to cnbc.

com, the shipping industry needs at least 50,000 drivers to close the gap.

The American Trucking Association estimates that a total of 898,000 more drivers will be needed over the course of the next decade to keep up with growth and demand.

Let’s take a look at some of the factors that are causing this shortage in truck drivers and putting stress on the ability of companies to deliver their goods in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Federal Regulations

Dating back to 2004, the federal government changed the rules that determine how many hours per day an individual can drive their truck.

The rule kept to the limit of 11 hours in a 14 hour period but changed how the 11 hours were calculated. The new rules started the clock as soon as a driver sat down behind the wheel and kept running even during waiting periods at loading docks.

Since the drivers could not work as long, more drivers were needed to cover the shipping routes.

Electronic logging devices (ELDs) are another federally mandated regulation that was primarily introduced to increase overall safety for truckers and the population at large. The rules took effect in December of 2017 and track all hours that a driver is behind the wheel.

Prior to the use of ELDs, truckers often only started the clock after picking up goods at a warehouse or distribution facility.

While these regulations keep drivers more well-rested and better able to perform their jobs safely, they have impacted the shipping industry by reducing the number of available hours that drivers can work.

The Rise of E-commerce

E-commerce has impacted the business world in many ways, and the shipping industry has surely benefitted by the increased demand to quickly deliver products to consumers. With companies Amazon undercutting the prices of brick-and-mortar retailers, their demand for drivers to ship their goods puts a strain on other shipping companies.

One of the benefits to consumers in e-commerce is the convenience of timely home delivery. Unfortunately, shipping in this manner does not always use the shippers or trucks in the most effective way. Delivering small goods to remote locations without a backhaul opportunity is the norm, and adds to the shortage of drivers available to make other runs with full loads.

Fear of Self-Driving Vehicles

As technology continues to advance in the 21st Century, the specter of self-driving vehicles looms on the horizon. According to, Goldman Sachs predicts that self-driving vehicles could cost American drivers 300,000 jobs per year starting about 25 years from now. This puts a damper on choosing truck driving as a viable, long-term career.

Many Silicon Valley technology companies, such as Tesla, are heavily invested in bringing autonomous vehicles to the market. Fully autonomous trucks are expected to be safer and cause fewer accidents than those driven by humans.

For this reason, trucking companies are embracing technology as insurance premiums will go down.

A self-driving vehicle will not need to conform to the standards of operation in place to ensure driver safety, thereby allowing longer, uninterrupted runs.

Truck Driving is a Hard Job

Though salaries for truck drivers has grown with the demand, truck driving is not a career for everyone. Truck drivers start at around $50,000 and in some cases are earning over $80,000 per year. But in order to achieve these salaries, many aspects of their lives must be modified to allow them to log the requisite number of miles.

Health problems such as back pain can be caused by sitting and driving all day long. It is a sedentary job that does not lend itself to exercise or healthy eating habits.

The long hours that a driver needs to work puts a strain on family life. Long-distance truckers may not see their families for weeks.

The lifestyle is not for everyone and is a further reason for the lack of drivers entering the field.

Age Requirements for Interstate Trucking

You need to be at least 21 years of age in order to operate trucks on interstate routes. This eliminates recent high school graduates that may opt for a career in truck driving. They are forced into other vocations and may not be inclined to change to become drivers when they reach the required age.

These are some of the reasons that there is a shortage of truck drivers in the United States.

There is not one overriding reason, but rather a number of contributing factors that when looked at together, paint a picture of a shipping industry that is dealing with a shortage of qualified drivers.

There does not appear to be a simple solution to this issue, and we may have to get used to higher shipping rates for the foreseeable future.


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