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Should carriers be worried about the trucker shortage?

01.14.2020 - 11:54 AM Comments: 0

The shortage of truck drivers in the United States has been a topic of contention for quite some time. As the bulk of the drivers in the industry continue to age, trucking could be headed towards troubling times if they can't replenish their ranks.

Nonetheless, while many believe that the shortage is due to a lack of people wanting to do the job, that isn’t fully the case. According to a study conducted by the American Trucking Association (ATA) in 2015, 88 percent of fleets said they were getting enough applicants, but the issue was that many were just not qualified. 

So, does that mean that fleets should just hire inexperienced drivers to fix the issue? No, it doesn’t. But what it does mean is that those drivers will likely begin to gain experience over time and subsequently fill positions throughout the industry. 

However, that doesn’t fully fix the problem, as the driver gap may still be too wide. To make matters worse, according to Bloomberg, the shortage is expected to double over the next decade. 

Citing the lack of replacement for aging drivers and recruitment of women, the industry is estimated to have 160,000 unfilled positions in a decade. 

In 2018 alone, the deficit in drivers skyrocketed from 50,700 to 60,800, per the ATA. And with the average age of truckers being 46, OTR trucking is the most at-risk of being impacted by the shortage.

Because of the nature of OTR trucking, which requires long hours and weeks on the road, younger folks are less inclined to do the job, which explains the lack of replacements for older drivers. 

Nevertheless, according to Steve Banker in an article for Forbes, even though the turnover rate is high in OTR driving, the issue shouldn’t be labeled as a shortage. He also argues that the issue may not be to have less regulation in the industry but to have more instead.

“An economist might argue, but the Bureau did not, that the answer is not less regulation, but more,” Banker said. “Make trucking subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime provisions, pay time-and-a-half for weekly hours over 40, and the job becomes more financially rewarding. This, in turn, would attract more people into the profession.”

Making trucking more appealing through further financial rewards could be a viable solution to turnover in the industry and even to the shortage (depending on if you believe in it or not).

Regardless of whether you believe it or not, there still aren’t enough drivers available to fill the open seats, which many believe will soon be filled by automated technology. 

Proponents of automation have often cited the driver shortage as one of the catalysts for automation in trucking. WIth automated trucks slowly coming to fruition, it’ll be interesting to see how the driver shortage is dealt with for years to come.

So what do you think about the driver shortage? Do you think it’s a real issue? Let us know in the comments or on social media!

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