What is Causing the American Truck Driver Shortage?

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truck driver shortage 2020

Truck driver shortages have been somewhat of a hot topic in recent years. Major media outlets have all published stories revolving around driver shortages and its impact on the economy.

What are some reasons for the truck driver shortage? Aging demographics, driver salaries,  and demanding lifestyles seem to be key factors in the shortage of truck drivers in the USA.

With that said, how dire is the situation really? Does the shortage of truck drivers in the US constitute a trucking crisis in 2020?

The need for truck drivers

According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the trucking industry was short about 60,800 drivers in 2018. The ATA estimates that the shortages could increase to over 160,000 by 2028.

While these numbers paint a grim picture, there is a point of qualification. The trucking industry is diverse, consisting of many different segments. In general, the vast majority of truck driver shortages apply to one segment of the trucking industry: the over-the-road, for-hire truckload sector (i.e. long-haul trucking). Other carrier types, such as for-hire less-than-truckload carriers and private fleets, are not as affected by these trucker shortages.

Moreover, it’s not so much an issue of quantity, but more so the quality of applicants. Trucking companies have strict standards when it comes to safety. Otherwise, suitable candidates may not qualify for employment if found to have a poor driving record.

Interestingly, the demand for truck drivers has temporarily dropped due to COVID-19. Although supplies for groceries and medical supplies have picked-up during the pandemic, other trucking sectors, such as tanker and flatbed operators have seen reduced activity.

Regardless, the need for truckers still exists. The fundamental reasons for long-haul trucker shortages did not disappear with COVID-19 and need addressing.

Causes for the truck driver shortage

Why is there a shortage of truck drivers in the US? Often preconceived notions of poor lifestyle or low pay can be deterrents for the new generation of drivers. Here we’ll explore the underlying causes for American truck driver shortages.

Aging demographics

Truck drivers are on average older than workers in other industries. The median age of truckers is 46 compared to 42 for all other workers. As the existing generation of drivers retires, there is a need for younger drivers to help replace the aging workforce.

Currently, truckers can earn their CDL at the age of 18. However, federal law only permits those 21 years and older to travel across state lines. The driver shortage has prompted industry groups to advocate dropping the minimum age to 18 to help increase the number of eligible drivers.

Lifestyle

The upcoming generation places a high value on work-life balance. Long-haul truck driving can involve long periods of time away from friends and family. These extended periods away from home can be a real deterrent in this field of work.

Due to the nature of the job, time spent away from home can’t be entirely avoided. However, companies are exploring options to offer drivers with a more balanced lifestyle. Some fleets are trying things like adjusting routes or having more retail distribution centers to allow drivers to return home for the day. These types of adjustments could have positive effects on recruitment.

Pay

One of the common reasons for the truck driver shortage is historically low pay. Since the 1980s, median wages for truck drivers have decreased an average of 21%.

The natural market reaction to high demand and low supply of truck drivers is higher wages. And that’s exactly what’s happening. In the past couple of years, some of the top fleet companies are aiming to improve pay and rework its pay structure to retain and attract qualified drivers.

How trucking companies are taking action

With driver shortages persisting in the industry, companies are not sitting still. Trucking companies are taking steps to attract drivers through the following measures:

Higher wages: As mentioned before, trucking companies are not only increasing wages but looking at ways to improve pay structures and incentives. Incentives like sign-on bonuses, guaranteed minimum weekly pay, and benefit packages are all strategies companies are utilizing to address truck driver shortages in 2020.

Improving working conditions: One major issue truckers face is extended waiting times at shipping and receiving facilities. This extended waiting time (i.e. detention time) wastes time, causes increased stress and fatigue, and cuts into the driver’s wages. Fleet companies, manufacturers, and retailers are working to reduce these waiting times through strategies like better tracking of hours (i.e. ELD compliance solutions), staggering pickups, and improved logistics.

Improving culture: More trucking companies are aiming to improve the industry’s image through the use of social media, community involvement, and other grass-root initiatives. For example, Trucking Moves America Forward is an organization supported by various trucking companies that aims to create a positive image through education, political engagement, and other promotional materials.

Leveraging technology: Prioritizing safety is in the best interest of truck drivers and trucking companies. Companies are leveraging advanced fleet management solutions to better monitor fleet movement, document incidents, streamline DOT compliance requirements, and more. Focusing on safety demonstrates a commitment to the well-being of your drivers, helping attract new talent to the industry.

Lytx - Fleet Management Solutions

The trucking industry in the US still has much work to do in appealing to a new generation of truck drivers, especially long-haul drivers. Companies are working hard to come up with innovative ways to address some of the common barriers in this industry.

Lytx is committed to assisting fleet management companies to increase safety and operational efficiency. With our cutting-edge driver safety, GPS fleet tracking, and compliance services we offer customizable solutions to help you manage your fleet effectively.

 

Contact us today for more information on how our technology can help drivers improve their performance. 

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