Over the past decade, the trucking industry in the United States has struggled with the shortage of driers. These have affected the entire economy, as more than 60% of all freight is moved on United States highways. It has also affected the supplier costs, consumer pricing, increased shipping delays, and shortages at stores.
The trucking industry has emerged as one of the most acute bottlenecks in a supply chain that has unraveled amid the pandemic. The lockdowns made it difficult for new drivers to access commercial-trucking schools and get licensed. These have worsened supply shortages across industries, further fanning inflation and threatening a broader economic recovery.
Drivers’ shortage across the United States has become so severe that many trucking companies are now trying to bring in drivers from abroad like seemingly never before. The industry has been grappling with a chronic lack of drivers for years. But the pandemic made it worse as demand for shipped goods soared.
WHAT IS DRIVER SHORTAGE?
Driver shortage indicates the shortage of qualified professional truck drivers. Truck drivers are leaving the industry and searching for jobs that offer better pay, benefits, and working conditions. According to reports, many of them are not satisfied with the lifestyle it provides. Continue reading as we will discuss the factors affecting the shortage of truck drivers in the trucking industry and what the industry can do to fix the problem.
THE CAUSES OF DRIVER SHORTAGE
INCREASE IN DRIVER TURNOVER
One of the main contributions to the astounding rate of driver shortage in the United States is the turnover rate. According to research, many potential drivers are interested in having a career in truck driving. But they often abandon the idea when they discover the lack of respect, poor working conditions, and the job demand.
LOW DRIVER WAGES
There was a time when truck drivers made decent money for their hard work, but an increase in the cost of living has changed everything. The wages of many truck drivers do not match their cost of living. The wags of some trucking companies are also no longer worth the sacrifices the drivers make for the job, making the drivers feel underappreciated and underpaid. These make them leave their jobs to look for something that offers better pay, benefits, and working conditions.
One of the most extensive issues influencing the driver shortage is the demographic of the current workforce. These include age and gender. According to statistics, the average age of a commercial truck driver in the United States is 55 years old. These drivers will be retiring within the next 10-20 years, and there are not enough young drivers to fill the gap, putting the industry on a dangerous cliff.
The Federal requirement to hold an Interstate Commercial Divers License has also left three years post-high school gap, where possible employees become distracted by new employment opportunities. These have contributed significantly to the shortage experienced today.
Another significant demographic issue is stereotyping truck driving as a macho job for macho men has also worsened the situation. According to statistics, women makeup 47% of the nation’s workforce but only account for 6% of commercial truck drivers. Therefore, convincing women that they are welcome and needed in the truck driver career pool can bridge the gap.
TRUCK DRIVERS’ LIFESTYLE
The lifestyle of a truck driver is not ideal and steers people away from even considering a career as a truck driver. They live on the road for days, spending a lot of time away from their homes, loved ones, and friends. Being on the road non-stop also limits their nutritional options. Their high-calorie, high sugar diet can lead to health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and digestive issues.
Sleep deprivation is another chronic problem faced by truck drivers. The pressure to get to their destination quickly makes them skip sleep breaks. These lead to mental fogginess, poor judgment, and forgetfulness, making them more prone to accidents. These lifestyles with poor wages make many drivers walk away and look for a new career.
HIGH LEVEL OF RISK
Truck driving is a risky profession, and truck drivers face more difficulties than smaller vehicles. They must be alert and know how to handle their trucks. They drive for long hours to make deadlines on bad roads and weather. Some drivers also haul hazardous chemicals and other dangerous substances. All these put drivers and their health in risky situations.
INCREASE IN TRUCKING REGULATION
The United States Department of Motor Vehicles and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration imposes regulations on the trucking industry. Changes like stricter anti-drug enforcement, drug and alcohol testing, state-to-state rules, and proposed changes to working hours for drivers have contributed to a shrink in driver capacity. It also has significant impacts on the trucking capacity.
The trucking industry in the United States has felt the effects of global disruption with the pandemic. The lockdowns and restrictions made many drivers stay home with financial support from stimulus payments. It also caused partial or complete closures of many driving schools and testing facilities, leading to a backlog in getting new drivers qualified. Additionally, a surge in demand due to the pandemic is also causing a ripple effect in the trucking industry.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The trucking industry has been grappling with a chronic lack of drivers because of the pandemic. It also raises the demand for shipped goods. The consequences have also been dire and far-reaching.
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