Is There a Shortage of Truck Drivers in America?

The United States has been dealing with a shortage of truck drivers for over 15 years, and most projections say it’ll only get worse as time goes on. Why is this happening, and what does this mean for the trucking industry? There are several different factors that have led up to this point, and the solution will have to be multi-faceted as well. Of course, the news isn’t all bad. Sites like keep truckers updated on the latest in their industry, including the most recent statistics, emerging technologies, and other relevant topics. The question is whether the trucking industry can reverse the current shortage of drivers; if not, there could be serious implications for supply chains across the US.

Is There a Shortage of Truck Drivers in America?

What to Know About the Truck Driver Shortage

Even though some experts say that there’s a shortage of up to 80,000 drivers, others say that this shortage only exists at the level of individual businesses. It’s true that many trucking companies struggle to retain drivers, but the shortages are trickier to calculate when looking at the industry as a whole. Regardless, if individual companies are reporting a total of 80,000 drivers that they need but don’t have, this surely has an impact on the industry.

Why is there a Shortage of Truckers in the United States?

As mentioned above, there are several different reasons why many trucking companies are struggling to hire and retain drivers. These are the main factors.

1. High Turnover Rates

The trucking industry has one of the highest turnover rates in the US, at a whopping 89%. Since companies anticipate most of their drivers quitting within their first year, they push hard to maximize the amount of use they get out of each person. However, this only makes the problem worse. Because many companies resort to predatory practices (more about this below), they make new hires far less likely to stick around.

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2. Stagnant Wages

Even though wages have risen over the years in response to fierce competition for new recruits, they still haven’t kept up with inflation. When comparing wage hikes with inflation over the past several years, it’s clear that compensation from trucking companies just isn’t keeping up. In fact, compared to what truckers were making in 1980, drivers today are making about 50% less.

3. Unfair Work Policies

Life as a trucker is notorious for requiring a ton of time on the road, and not much time at home. This makes it unappealing to many, even if they don’t have families. For those that do, it’s either a reason to quit their trucking job, or to avoid applying in the first place. The worst part is that this isn’t even necessary; it happens because the average trucking company would prefer to marginally increase profits, rather than treating their drivers well. For example, many truckers are made to stay on the road for multiple weeks running, work up to 70 hours per week, and sleep in their trucks. They also rarely have any choice in where they travel, so there’s little chance of them staying within driving distance of home. Trucking companies may also pay by the mile, and then ask drivers to do extra unpaid work such as loading/unloading, performing vehicle checks, filling out paperwork, attending meetings, and more. Between one thing and another, it’s easy to see why the turnover is so high in this industry.

4. Health Risks

A sedentary lifestyle is known to come with quite a few health risks, but that isn’t the only health-related problem that truckers deal with. They also tend to eat a lot of fast food, since they’re constantly on the go. This can also contribute to some serious health conditions, including high blood pressure and diabetes.

Consistently low sleep quality is another issue, especially for long-term truckers. Even though trucking companies are legally required to allow their employees enough time to sleep during each 24-hour period, they also typically make truckers sleep in tiny cubbyholes at the back of the truck’s cab. This could be while the truck is parked at a rest stop, or while a driving partner takes a shift at the wheel. Either way, the environment will rarely be quiet enough to allow for a good night’s sleep.

5. Aging Workforce

The average trucker in the US is 48 years old, meaning plenty of drivers are getting close to retirement age. At the same time, the industry is having difficulty recruiting younger drivers who can replace them. Trucking simply isn’t a popular career choice among 20-somethings, which makes it harder for trucking companies to recruit enough drivers.

Can the Truck Driver Shortage be Solved?

Most of the issues listed above can be resolved, or at least mitigated. That being said, do trucking companies care enough about the shortages to make meaningful changes? Since many of these changes would mean slightly lower profits, they aren’t likely to be made anytime soon. Even so, these are some solutions that could help resolve the current trucker shortage.

1. Offer a Better Work-Life Balance

If driving schedules were less intense and more predictable, truckers would have more time to spend at home. This would make the job more appealing to those with families, as well as younger people.

2. Institute Fairer Policies and Better Pay

Many trucking companies openly take advantage of their employees with unfair policies, such as requiring unpaid work or long work weeks. This makes drivers feel undervalued as well as underpaid, which is a recipe for high turnover rates. By considering the needs of drivers more, trucking companies will be more likely to hold onto current employees.

3. Improve Recruitment Methods

Young people, ethnic minorities, and women all represent a largely untapped source of potential truckers. By attracting a wider range of candidates, the trucking industry can start resolving the years-long shortage of drivers.

The Takeaway

Whether or not you agree that there’s a shortage of truck drivers, there’s no doubt that individual trucking companies are struggling to hire and retain truckers. With more balanced policies and better recruitment methods, there’s a chance of finding a long-term solution to the problem.

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