With 68% of freight in the U.S. getting moved across highways, the current truck driver shortage is a huge problem. For the past decade, we have seen a decrease in truck drivers and increased demand for shipped goods.
What’s causing the shortage of drivers?
There are multiple reasons contributing to the driver shortage.
First, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age for truck drivers is 55. Second, with such a high average age, many truck drivers will be retiring in the next 10-20 years, leaving an even more significant gap in the market.
Many logistics and trucking companies attempt to entice people to switch careers by offering better pay for truck drivers. However, this poses a more complex question in the logistics industry. An increase in pay for truck drivers means an increase in cost for consumers, making it challenging to find a balance between cost of transportation and cost of goods.
What stops people from becoming truck drivers?
So if a pay increase is happening, what is stopping more people from becoming truck drivers?
There are a few potential reasons. But one of the biggest is, to become a truck driver, an individual must be at least 21-years-old to hold a CDL driver’s license. With a higher age requirement, many high school graduates pursue other career paths before turning 21 and don’t think about changing careers.
Additionally, women account for only six percent of the trucking industry, while women make up 47% of the workforce. With women disproportionately choosing other professions, the trucking industry is lagging.
It’s not just age, gender, and financial problems that have created a shortage of truck drivers. The trucking lifestyle isn’t for everyone. For many, it’s difficult to be away from home for weeks or months at a time. As a result, many who choose the truck life are confined to their big rigs much of the day, keeping them away from their families and their homes.
With rest stops serving as their only source of a shower and sometimes a meal, many truckers find life on the road difficult to adjust to, so truck driver retention is also a concern for the industry.
According to the American Trucking Association, the United States is 63,000 truck drivers short, and as we edge closer to 2026, the association estimates that the number will continue to grow.
How can the logistics industry help curb the loss of truck drivers?
The reality is, there are many different ways we can help. The first step is offering better incentives to our drivers. The trucking industry is demanding and requires some sacrifices. But by providing better pay and benefits for drivers, we can encourage people in search of a new career to explore trucking.
We can also start reaching out to people in other communities. By switching our focus to different demographics like women, people of color, and veterans, we increase our chances of recruiting new and younger drivers who will be in the industry for a long time.
Additionally, there is a considerable opportunity for young people in the trucking industry. The unemployment rate for 18-20-year-olds is the highest than that of any other age group at 14.1% (as of October 2020).
If the age requirement for gaining a CDL license were lowered, the trucking industry would be able to recruit people fresh out of high school who could potentially work in the industry for 20-30 years.
How to keep truck drivers safe on the job
Changes to driver safety are another way that we can help decrease the driver shortage. As technology advances, driver safety is becoming more commonplace. Advancements in routing, GPS, and tracking driver behavior help make our driver’s lifestyle easier.
By monitoring driver behavior through technology, we can ensure that drivers are getting enough rest and not spending too many hours on the road. While advancements in GPS and routing technology help ensure our drivers take the most efficient route, helping them stay on schedule and not feel the stress and exhaustion of driving a few extra hours due to traffic jams, accidents, or construction.
If changes such as these are implemented throughout the logistics and transportation industry, the driver shortage will quickly become a thing of the past. However, it will take a concerted effort by everyone working in the industry to make these changes.
We can’t expect the changes to happen overnight, but if the industry makes no effort, the 63,000-driver-shortage is sure to expand, creating even more significant problems for the industry in the near future.