There was a trucker shortage before coronavirus hit. The American Trucking Association (ATA) estimates that the US is still short of 80,000 drivers, and that number is expected to decline. The Freedom Convoy has shown the world the importance of truck drivers. The ATA estimates that the shortage could surpass 160,000 by 2030 based on current employment trends.
The ATA stated that the following factors are primarily driving the shortage:
- High average age of current drivers, which leads to a high number of retirements;
- Women making up only 7% of all drivers, well below their representation in the total workforce;
- Inability of some would-be and current drivers to pass a drug test, a problem exacerbated by an increasing number of states legalizing marijuana (a substance still banned federally);
- The federally mandated minimum age of 21 to drive commercially across state lines poses a significant challenge to recruiting new drivers;
- The pandemic caused some drivers to leave the industry, plus truck driver training schools trained far fewer drivers than normal in 2020;
- Lifestyle issues, notably time away from home, especially in the longer-haul market;
- Infrastructure and other issues, like a lack of truck parking spots, which causes drivers to stop driving earlier than they need to so they can get a spot for the night, and congestion which limits drivers’ ability to safely and efficiently make deliveries;
- Other barriers to entry like inability of potential candidates to meet carriers’ hiring standards for driving record or criminal histories
The report also notes that the trucking industry will need to recruit one million people to replace the retiring population. Rising payrates for long-haul truckers have reached five times the historical average, but the report states that pay raises alone will not attract new drivers since “some drivers will choose to work less at a higher pay rate, negating the impact of the increase.”
America will allow 18-year-olds to go to war but does not trust them to drive a truck. Those with criminal histories, even if non-violent or unrelated to their ability to safely operate a vehicle, are also barred from entering the field. The infrastructure issue noted is within the government’s control. “The solution to the driver shortage will most certainly require increased pay, regulatory changes and modifications to shippers’, receivers’ and carriers’ business practices to improve conditions for drivers,” the ATA’s report concluded. More must be done to attract the new generations into the field of trucking. Seeing how governments (looking at you, Canada) treat those within the industry certainly makes the job less appealing.
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