The truck driver shortage is not a novel concept for the American trucking industry. According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), the trucking industry has struggled with a truck driver shortage for over a decade.
In fact, the truck driver shortage is one of the top challenges that the trucking industry has to face every year. With a spectacular rise in e-commerce and last-mile deliveries, the trucking industry has never seen a higher demand for truck drivers. ATA estimates the industry could require about 160,000 truck drivers by 2030 if the trucking trends continue.
With this forecast coming true, there would be a severe truck driver shortage, affecting the entire economy as over 68 percent of the total freight is transported via US highways. In addition, driver shortage can significantly impact supplier costs, consumer pricing, and aggravating issues such as shipping delays and store shortages.
For this reason, it is important to understand the underlying cause behind the truck driver shortage, how it can possibly affect the trucking industry, and in what ways the industry can solve this problem.
This blog post will discuss the major reasons behind the truck driver shortage, its recent statistics, and how the trucking industry could fix it.
The reasons for truck driver shortage have mostly been known to everyone involved in the trucking industry. However, those new to the industry should know several factors contributing to the truck driver shortage.
The challenging lifestyle of the truck driver is one of the biggest reasons for truck driver shortage. Moreover, harsh working conditions discourage people from considering truck driving as a career.
Driving at least 100,000 miles a year, the average truck driver must work long hours, even in dangerous conditions. When drivers spend weeks or perhaps months on the road, they rarely get to spend quality time with their families at home.
Being on the road and driving non-stop can also severely affect the driver’s health, especially when he has to survive on fast food and on-the-road snacks. When such a diet is combined with the sedentary lifestyle of the truck driver, he will not only gain weight but also be at risk of getting major health disorders such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and digestive problems.
Sleep deprivation is another serious problem truck drivers face. Drivers often skip getting sleep breaks when they are pressured to deliver the freight to the destination on time. This affects their physical and mental health. Poor judgment, forgetfulness, and mental fogginess stem from sleep deprivation, making drivers more prone to accidents.
One of the other major reasons for truck driver shortage is the workforce demographics. Presently, the trucking industry is heavily dominated by white men. As per the US Census Bureau, over 500,000 drivers falling within the age bracket of 55 to 64 are white, whereas about only 100,000 drivers belong to other racial and ethnic communities.
Another big demographic problem is that the trucking industry is not fully tapping into the workforce population. For example, women comprise 47 percent of the nation’s workforce but only 6 percent of commercial truck drivers.
The truck driver shortage statistics highlight the acuteness of the issue. The American Trucking Association estimated that the 2021 driver shortage would cap at 80,000 drivers. According to several experts, if the same trend continues in the future, the trucking industry will need more than 160,000 drivers by 2030.
Along with the global pandemic and the ongoing supply chain crisis, the truck driver shortage is creating significant bottleneck issues in delivery. Hence, it is important for business owners and consumers alike to know about the truck driver shortage statistics so they can know what to expect shortly.
It is difficult to provide just one solution due to the complexity of the truck driver shortage. However, several areas for improvement within the trucking industry, including increased wages, better working conditions, and workforce diversity, can be highlighted to solve the truck driver shortage problem.
Below, we have discussed how to solve the truck driver shortage issue while offering a few potential solutions.
Just like the entire industry is experiencing a huge spike in the prices of commodities and gas, it wouldn’t be wrong to witness an increase in drivers’ wages. With increased wages, truck drivers would be motivated to work hard and thus improve their performance. In fact, many carriers are now offering pay increases along with attractive benefits packages and reimbursement options.
Better working conditions for the drivers can help alleviate the truck driver shortage to some extent. When the driver spends less time on the road and more time at home, they can certainly feel a lot better as it would take the “challenging lifestyle” issue out of the equation. In addition, the LTL hub and spoke system and increased distribution centers can make LTL more suitable by decreasing the average length of haul and allowing trucks to move only in the local regions.
Setting the minimum age of a commercial truck driver at 21 eliminates a large pool of talented and competent workers from applying for open truck driver positions. Having this age bracket also leads to the truck driver shortage problem.
Trucking companies should focus on increasing workforce diversity to solve the truck driver shortage problem effectively. They should invite women, minorities, and veterans to help increase the workforce and create more jobs for the drivers.
Autonomous trucking has brought a new trend in the trucking industry, with added benefits of reducing the boredom and stress of daily driving for the drivers. In addition, this advanced technology will certainly bring young, tech-savvy drivers to the industry.
Most truck driver shortages occur because of on-the-road (OTR) and full-truckload (FTL) shipping methods, as these methods require a lot of the driver’s time on the road and contribute to the tough driver lifestyle. On the other hand, LTL and parcel drivers get the opportunity to come home every night.
As of 2021 statistics, the American Trucking Association expressed the need for another 80,000 truck drivers. Bob Costello, the Chief Economist at ATA said that the truck driver shortage slightly eased in 2022, after more than 90 percent of TL carriers increased driver pay previous year, but the industry still faces its second-largest number of vacancies on record.
As per the projections of ATA, the number of vacancies for driver positions decreased about 4 percent from 81,258 to 78,000 in 2021.
To answer the question, how to solve the truck driver shortage issue, it is recommended that trucking companies pay more attention to tapping into workforce diversity and continue to provide better working conditions along with competitive wages and comprehensive benefits packages.
Another best way is to promote LTL shipping more, so drivers can get shorter and localized routes, enabling them to reach home every night.
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