Why You Should Care About Truck Driver Availability Issues
10/21/2015 — Matt Nagel
Why should you care about truck driver availability issues? For one, it directly affects how much you pay to ship your freight. The more truck drivers available to transport loads across American roadways means more competition for your load, more capacity available, and lower prices on freight transportation. It also means that you have less of a headache trying to find someone to take your freight to less desirable locations in the country.
Now that you know why you should care, we’ll take a look at what is causing this issue, what steps are being taken to address this issue, and how you can offset this problem for your company’s shipping operations right now.
What is causing the driver shortage?
- Age – One of the largest factors today is the average age of the existing workforce which is 55 as compared with 42 for all US workers. With an aging demographic of labor, there aren’t enough newer generations looking for jobs in the trucking industry. Coupled with the age gap, the industry has struggled historically to attract enough qualified applicants to drive a truck. Carriers need to be highly selective when hiring drivers because they have made safety and professionalism their main concern.
- Industry Growth – There is more freight on our roadways today than ever and all signs point to that continuing to increase - with overall revenue in the trucking industry expected to rise 66% and tonnage forecasted to increase 22% by 2022. More freight means the need for more drivers.
- Lifestyle – New generations are not exactly flocking to the trucking industry, as the romance of the open road doesn’t seem to be enough to entice drivers to spend significant amounts of time away from their families.
- Gender – The majority of the workforce is predominantly male. Females only comprise of 6% all truck drivers which leads to a very large untapped portion of the population.
- Job Market – With the job market improving over the years there are more job opportunities available for would be potential truck drivers.
- Federal Regulations – While normally in the interest of safety, changes to Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, CSA and Electronic Logging Devices continue to play a large role as they can reduce driver productivity and ultimately earning potential.
How are driver availability issues being addressed?
- Driver Pay – Perhaps the most important attractor to truck driving is that pay is increasing for this profession. The average annual pay is up about 28% since 2000 and that trend shows no signs of changing. In an effort to attract quality candidates, sign-on bonuses are now very common within the industry along with family-friendly work schedules.
- Working Conditions – Technology updates such as a shift to automatic transmissions, new diagnostic tools, and digital communication and tracking are being implemented to attract tech-savvy generations to a traditionally un-technology focused industry. Secondly, long-haul trucks are being made more comfortable with amenities like kitchenettes, pet accommodations, and more comfortable interiors that are taking the edge off of long trips.
- Lowering the Driver Age – The minimum age for interstate driving in the trucking industry is 21. By lowering the age limit to 18, the industry will open up to those 18-20 year olds that may have already found another trade by the time they are 21.
- Increasing the Labor Pool – Initiatives are being created to help foster a positive image of truck driving as a satisfying career. Carriers are also developing programs to help with the training and development of their existing talent.
- Autonomous Trucks – New technologies like driverless trucks might not be on the roads today, but it's a technology that is gaining steam and could be here sooner rather than later. Platoon driving might be the first technology down the pike that, while still requiring equipment operators, provides the opportunity to decrease driver involvement by using a lead truck connected to others. The lead truck would then control the following (linked) vehicles through controlled breaking and acceleration.
How can I offset issues for my shipping operations due to current driver shortages?
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates that the U.S. is short 35,000-40,000 truck drivers and has the potential to go much higher. And, as we mentioned before, less truck drivers means less competition for your freight and, in turn, a higher price to move your shipment. While there are steps being taken to correct 35,000 driver gap, it definitely won’t happen overnight. It’s important to take corrective steps now to realize present and future savings for your company.
The right price for your load is usually out there, you just have to put in the time to find the rate. Working with a 3PL partner, someone completely dedicated to finding you the right rate, is one way many companies are offsetting the current time and price commitment reality in the trucking industry. A good 3PL should put a great deal of effort into concentrating on the market, developing solid relationships with carriers and drivers alike, and leveraging that stability into savings and service for their customers.