The truck industry is facing a growing shortage of drivers.
America needs more truck drivers. The freight industry is facing a growing shortage of drivers, pushing some retailers to delay unnecessary shipments or pay high prices to deliver goods on time.
According to a report by the American freight association, more than 70 percent of U.S. goods are trucked, but the industry needs nearly 900,000 drivers to meet the growing demand.
Derek Leathers, chief executive of Werner Enterprises, a trucking company in Omaha, told Here&Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti, a truck driver who is driving the U.S. economy, but in recent years the industry has been trying to attract new drivers.
“It’s an honor to be a truck driver,” he said. “They were ‘knights on the road’ and we lost somewhere on the road, and I think the truck is often portrayed as this negative reality.”
The ATA report notes that the industry has faced a shortage of drivers for the past 15 years. During the great recession, cargo volumes fell, allowing the industry to meet demand with fewer drivers. But when sales resumed in 2011, the driver shortage became a problem again.
According to industry analysis by DAT Solutions, at the beginning of 2018, only one truck is needed for every 12 goods, the lowest rate since 2005.
“In addition to the lack of drivers, there is a shortage of qualified drivers, which will exacerbate the impact of the transport shortage,” said Bob Costello, chief economist at ATA. “This means that even if the shortage fluctuates, it is still a serious concern for our industry, supply chain and the economy as a whole.”
An aging fleet is one of the main drivers of the driver shortage. The bureau of labor statistics estimates that the average age of U.S. commercial truck drivers is 55. According to ATA, the industry also relies heavily on male chauffeurs – only 6% of commercial truck drivers are women.
“Demographic data is related to the industry,” Leathers said. The average age of the “truck industry than other comparable industry (such as manufacturing and construction industry) the average age of about 10 years, as a result, the retirement industry is happening, we can’t see the industry new entrants.”
The industry has been trying to attract new drivers because the truck driver’s lifestyle is not ideal. Drivers are often forced to stay on the road for long periods of time, resulting in fatigue, and many people suffer from undiagnosed sleep apnea.
The trump administration introduced new safety regulations in December, requiring commercial truck drivers to use electronic records to record their time. But many truckers argue that federal mandates do not provide the flexibility they need.
“Federal regulators have no clue,” Todd Spencer, executive vice President of the independent drive association, a trade group, told NPR in December. “They don’t know what the truck driver does, how they do it, the environment they live in, the work schedule and so on, and the need for work.”
Pierre says his company has increased wages, so the driver can make up for lost time on the road. In May 2016, the median annual salary for heavy and tractor trailer drivers was $41,340, according to the BLS.
“The level of pay has increased substantially, and in Werner, our pay has increased by 17 percent in the last few years,” Leathers said. “The first year entrants into the industry now earn about $50,000 a year, depending on which part of the business they enter. So it’s a good job, it’s a lot of work, you can build a family around it.