Truck drivers transport the majority of goods across the country. According to the American Trucking Association, more than 70 percent of consumer goods in the United States are transported by trucks. The number of truckers is dwindling, and the industry as a whole is facing a significant shortage of employees. The shortage is causing certain retailers to modify their practices by delaying shipments that aren’t as important or have to pay higher prices to ensure that they receive their shipments on time.
In order to keep up with the rising demand, the American Trucking Associations estimate that they need to hire approximately 900,000 more drivers to keep up. Truckers are a large part of the American economy, but recently it has been more difficult for companies to recruit new drivers. The CEO of the trucking company Werner Enterprises based out of Omaha, NE, Derek Leathers, feels that the shortage is because truck drivers don’t have the same level of honor that they used to. There has been a negative connotation associated with the profession in recent years.
The shortage has been an issue for the past 15 years, largely triggered by the Great Recession. This reduced the volume of freight being transported and required fewer drivers to meet demand. Once volume began to pick back up in 2011, the shortage became a problem again. The problem with lack of drivers is heightened by the lack of qualified drivers to operate certain classes of vehicles.
One cause for the shortage is that the average age for truckers is 55 years old, with 94 percent of employees being men according to the ATA. Current demographics are working against the industry since similar industries have a workforce with an average age of 45. More people are retiring from the trucking industry without new workers to replace them.
The trucking lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Schedules can be unpredictable, fatigue is common, and sleep is limited even with new regulations put in place requiring electronic logging. Some companies are increasing wages to encourage new talent. Pay has increased by 17 percent within the last few years, with a first-year worker able to make an average of $50,000 per year. It’s definitely possible to live off of the salary, but the issue lies in getting the message out there to recruit talent.