While traversing the nation’s highways, drivers may not realize they are in the company of people who help keep the country’s economy flowing smoothly. The various trucks seen on the roadway are crucial economic components, as are the drivers who toil hours on end behind the wheel.
As vital as they are, truck drivers are now in short supply, with some citing an aging workforce, high turnover rates, increased freight demand, and “lifestyle priorities” that can make other industries seem more attractive to would-be drivers.
The economic advisor Morgan Stanley reports that about 75 percent of freight in the United States is moved over the nation’s roadways by the roughly three million truckers. The American Trucking Associations says that about an additional 50,000 drivers are needed to meet deficits, particularly in the long-haul sector of the industry. If the trucking shortage goes unaddressed, industries could falter and deliveries may be late. In addition, rising costs of transporting goods by freight companies may be passed down to consumers. Industry experts fear the shortage may almost triple by the year 2026.
Analysts say this problem has been festering for about 15 years. However, the recession that began in 2008 masked the issue, and when the North American economy strengthened once again, the cracks in the system became more apparent. The trucking lifestyle isn’t attracting millennials and the incoming Generation Z individuals who are interested in a work-life balance, continues the ATA.
If consumers are wondering why prices on certain goods have steadily risen, they may have trucker shortages to blame. Transportation costs have been problematic for companies such as PepsiCo, Halliburton, Hasbro, and Tyson Foods, just to name a few. Tyson has said freight costs spiked by an estimated $200 million in 2018.
Experienced truckers who are interested in finding work or individuals new to this employment sector may find that odds of getting gainful employment are in their favor. The demand for drivers has resulted in freight companies offering higher salaries as well as signing bonuses for qualified drivers. Trucker compensation has risen as much as 12 percent a year in recent years, according to Bob Costello, chief economist at the ATA. That’s a considerable increase in wages compared to other sectors, which have barely budged recently.
Additionally, while current U.S. regulations restrict commercial driver’s license-holding drivers from operating across state lines until they are 21 years of age, the introduced DRIVE-Safe Act would establish an apprenticeship program for individuals under age 21 who hold a CDL to prepare them for interstate commerce.
Truck driver shortages are affecting businesses. However, for those interested in a becoming truckers, there has never been a better time to sign on.