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Shortage of Truck Drivers and Federal Funding

Truck driver logging hours

The logistics and transportation industry is one of the largest in the world, so it follows that there would be quite a number of jobs available. Considering the state of the current economy, there is oddly a shortage of qualified truckers within the industry. According to the Memphis Business Journal, there is an estimated need for 96,178 truckers per year for the next ten year to "replace lost drivers and those who are getting out of the business." The average trucker is 10 years older than the average American, which shows that younger Americans aren't entering the industry.

Besides the loss of drivers, there are other issues to contend with. One well-established trucking company, YRC Freight, has experienced difficulty overcoming recent economic crises. In 2012 "truckload activity was up 1 percent, truckload intermodal loads were up 20.1 percent and less-than-truckload tonnage was up 4.3 percent from 2011, according to the American Trucking Associations." Despite these increases, numbers took a downturn in the fourth quarter of 2012. The company predicts improvement in 2013, but at a slower rate.

There is also a noticeable lack of quality in highways. Federal funding for improving road infrastructure has decreased because that money is generated by taxes placed on fuel. Because there are increasing numbers of hybrids on the road, that revenue stream has fallen. A funding stopgap, MAP-21, was introduced but the industry wants a long-term solution. Senior vice president of YRC Freight Darren Hakwins said "It's something we're spending a lot of time on." Theoretically, taxes on carbon emissions could bring in enough money to maintain the highways, but that revenue goes directly to home weatherization.

Aside from simply maintaining the roads, new infrastructure would help alleviate the current congestion issue plaguing areas like Memphis. The highway congestion around Memphis reportedly causes a two million hour loss of driving time annually. Totally congestion across the nation accounts for $25 billion lost in productivity from slowed rates of travel.

Another set of revisions the industry is looking to enact involve driver safety. The current safety requirements are called Compliance, Safety, and Accountability and were developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Some say the regulations didn't incorporate as much input from the trucking industry as they could have. One change currently being considered is limiting driver hours from 11 to 10. While this would increase the number of drivers needed by the industry, Hawkins says "the data shows we have to do more (to address safety issues) in the first two hours."