Shortage of Truck Drivers: A Problem Getting Worse

moving truck

If you're transitioning out of the military, don't want to go to college, and don't know where to find work, it's time to think about the trucking industry. No matter how many reasons you can think of to say no, the simple fact is qualified truckers are a rarity and the industry desperately needs young employees to start replacing an aging, retiring workforce. But, before you dive in, you should understand why exactly the trucking industry is experiencing a worker shortage.

According to Business Insider, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates a shortage of 30,000 drivers. The main factors for the shortage are: regulation issues, low pay, and a lack of interest in the industry from millennials. Fully 90% of freight companies reported that they could not find drivers who met the department of transportation's (DOT) criteria.

 "Industry carriers are rotating through the same drivers – meaning drivers jump from carrier to carrier with no great influx of new candidates into the driver pool," said Gretchen Jackson, manager of recruitment at Con-way Truckload.

The cause of the shortage may seem simple but there are a few different factors at work. When the financial crisis of 2008 hit, many freight companies closed their doors and a large portion of contractors stepped away from the industry. According to Jackson, drivers who were forced to cope by finding other work became accustomed to not being on the road for two to three weeks at a time, and don't want to give up their relatively new, more settled lifestyle.

"We see our over-the-road (OTR) drivers leave to join other industries, particularly construction or less-than-truckload (LTL) truck driving, which provides a different type of schedule and work style than OTR driving," Jackson said. "Drivers want to make more money, and they want more home time, so they leave OTR truck driving for careers that can give them that."

Another ding for the industry was the change in regulation in 2013 to hours-of-service practices. Because of the new regulations, freight companies must maintain more trucks and drivers to haul the same amount of cargo which means a smaller profit margin and hampering long-term growth.

Freight companies are taking this problem seriously, and at least one is doing something about it. Swift Transportation announced that tackle the problem in part by offering higher wages. "We were constrained in the truckload and (central refrigerated systems) segments by the challenging driver market. Our driver turnover and unseated truck count were higher than anticipated," noted a Swift Transportation press release. Salaries, wages, and benefits will rise to $238.1 million from last year's $223.9 million. On the list of improved compensation is higher wages per mile for drivers.

Also on the list of challenges was reaching out to millenials and showing them that delivering freight is "a legitimate career option."

According to the ATA, the truck driver shortage will expand to 239,000 in 2022. If you have the time and energy, this might be one of the best industries to enter. Not only are most companies clawing for new candidates, but they are expected to need far more new drivers in the future. Certifications are usually required which means spending time in a few classes, but the pay and job security will most likely far outweigh  the stress of dealing with a classroom.                                                                                                                                                                          

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