Since 2005, a shortage of truck drivers has remained a big problem for the US economy. The latest report by the American Trucking Association has brought this shortage back to the forefront. So why are trucking companies struggling to find drivers? What is the industry doing to help solve this problem before US businesses feel the adverse effects? Here’s what you need to know.

How Bad is the Truck Driver Shortage?

Back in 2005 when the shortage was first reported, the industry needed about 20,000 drivers. According to the 2017 ATA report, that number will go beyond 50,000. If the trend continues, it will grow to 174,000 by 2026. Another key statistic coming out of this report? This industry will need to hire 898,000 new drivers over the next 10 years. Those numbers are troubling for companies and consumers alike, who depend on these workers to get goods from the manufacturer into the hands of consumers. What makes these stats even more concerning is the fact that wages for truck drivers have increased, the median salary is now more than $53,000. Yet this hasn’t been enough to attract new workers in this industry. 

Why It’s Still a Problem

Now that we understand the depth of the trucker shortage problem, what factors are contributing to this industry deficit?

Current drivers continue to retire

Cited as one of the biggest contributors to the shortage of truck drivers, more drivers are retiring. The ATA reports that the median age of truck drivers is 49 years old. Private fleet drivers are even older - where the average age is 52. With so many older drivers, they account for 49% of the new drivers that need to be hired to replace them. The industry continues to struggle with this, especially when current laws require drivers to be at least 21 years old. Many workers by that age have already found jobs in other industries like construction and retail, further shrinking the pool of potential truck drivers. 

A Strong E-Commerce Economy

To put it simply, with more people buying everything online from clothes to groceries, the higher the demand for trucks to get these goods out of the warehouse and into buyer’s homes. Trucks transport 70 percent of the country’s freight and this type of economy just puts a further strain on the industry.

Stricter Federal Regulations

Aside from laws that prevent hiring truck drivers between the ages of 18 and 21, there are other federal regulations that can be attributed to this shortage. In 2004, a truck driver’s workday was capped at 11 hours. That means more drivers and more trucks are needed to carry the same amount of freight. 

A Congressional Solution?

A congressional bill aimed at tackling the truck driver shortage was introduced in March of 2018. The Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act or DRIVE-Safe Act for short aims to allow a younger demographic to enter the trucking industry. It calls for allowing CDL license holders under 21 to drive across state lines provided they complete an apprenticeship program. They would be required to work 400 hours with an experienced driver, with at least 240 of those hours spent driving. The bill is currently moving through Congress.

 

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