What’s causing a driver shortage in the trucking industry?
There are several factors that affect the driver shortage. Traveling at least 100,000 miles a year, the average truck driver works long hours and in dangerous conditions. Spending weeks or months on the road, truck drivers rarely spend time at home with their families. It’s no surprise that many of the factors affecting the driver shortage have to do with employers struggling to attract employees.
How does a truck driver shortage affect your business?
Truckers have always played an essential role in the economy. Over 72% of all freight is transported across U.S. highways. In 2019, the trucking industry was a $791.7 billion industry. According to the ATA’s U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast, the country will see a 24% increase in freight tonnage in 2022, producing a 66% increase in revenue for the industry.
With these forecast numbers, every supply chain will be affected by a truck driver shortage. The food and medical supply chains, in particular, are extremely vulnerable to a driver shortage in the trucking industry. A shortage in these supply chains could also cause consumer panic, hoarding and general civil unrest. Other conveniences that society takes for granted, such as cash in ATMs and fuel at gas stations, could also be severely affected.
The main factors affecting the truck driver shortage
In many ways, the trucking industry is the foundation of the economy. To continue supporting consumer purchases of essential goods and other services, the issues contributing to the truck driver shortage must be solved.
Currently, the trucking industry is heavily dominated by white men. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, within the most common trucker age bracket of 55 to 64, over 500,000 truckers are white, while members of other racial and ethnic communities make up less than 100,000 of workers. And while the Census Bureau forecasts the new face of trucking as female, women generally only account for 6% of the commercial truck driver workforce.
In several states, a driver’s license can be issued at just 16 years old. However, the federal requirement for an interstate commercial driver’s license (CDL) is 21 years of age. Since this leaves a three-year post high school age gap, many potential employees are presented with alternative employment opportunities before even considering the trucking industry as a career path.
The trucking lifestyle
Most truckers drive routes that keep them on the road for weeks at a time. This type of schedule impacts basic lifestyle choices, such as nutrition and regular exercise. It takes great effort on the driver’s part to avoid major health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Sleep deprivation is also a major issue that many truck drivers face daily. Long-haul truckers are often expected to sleep in their truck, sometimes when it’s being driven by another driver. Poor sleep conditions can cause mental fogginess, poor judgment, forgetfulness and other side effects that can impair the safety of the driver and others on the road.
How to solve the truck driver shortage
There are several areas for improvement within the trucking industry, such as wages, working conditions and workforce diversity. Addressing some of these concerns now could prevent an even more drastic truck driver shortage in the future.
When there’s a shortage of goods or services, the natural market reaction is to increase prices. This is the case with truck driver wages. Since truck drivers are essential workers, truck carriers could offer pay increases coupled with comprehensive benefits to increase incentives.
The current median pay for a truck driver is $47,130 per year or $22.60 per hour. To help improve truck driver recruitment, companies can consider yearly pay increases in addition to other incentives such as weekend driving pay increases, performance bonuses and rewards programs.
Additionally, trucking companies can offer a comprehensive benefits package with a robust 401(k) plan, health care and paid time off. Including wellness options and coverage for dependents are other things to consider. These can be huge incentives for the older truck driver employee population, in particular, many of whom may be more susceptible to health issues and have families at home to consider.
Improve working conditions
Additionally, an effort should be made to decrease the amount of time spent on the road for each trucker. By encouraging and increasing time spent at home, many of the trucker’s lifestyle issues, such as poor physical and mental health, could vastly improve.
The transportation industry is broken down into different sectors. The majority of driver shortages take place within on-the-road and full-truckload shipping methods. If less-than-truckload methods and parcel drivers are used more regularly by shippers, more truckers would have the option to choose a job where they get to go home every night, bypassing some of the more extreme lifestyle conditions.
Encourage underrepresented people to apply
Women, veterans and members of minority communities are under-represented in the trucking industry. With such drastic imbalances within truck driver demographics, efforts can be made to make members of underrepresented communities feel more comfortable and enthusiastic about applying for trucking jobs.
Invest in autonomous trucking
Several companies are experimenting with technology that uses long-range, high-resolution sensors, combined with deep neural networks and high-performance, energy-efficient computers, to automate everything from shipping yard operations to long-haul deliveries.
Autonomous trucking is a scalable solution, as there are different levels of autonomy. For example, a level two autonomous trucking solution includes a driver who is still in control. A level four or five autonomous solution means that no human supervision is required. Autonomous trucking can potentially revolutionize logistics and help solve truck driver shortages.