Across the USA, the driver shortage ranks as the number one issue in the trucking industry. It’s a problem that has plagued the trucking industry for at least the past 15 years.
With the pandemic making the shortage worse, is there a way to increase driver retention over the coming years?
Continue reading below to find out why there’s a driver shortage and what the industry needs to solve the problem.
History of the Driver Shortage
In 2005, it was first reported that the trucking industry faced a shortage of around 20,000 drivers. However, during the 2008 financial crisis, transport volume plummeted, effectively erasing the shortage.
Over the years, the shortage grew again as demand and the economy began to recover. In 2018, transportation volume was at its highest in years, and the industry needed about 60,000 more drivers.
The coronavirus pandemic brought the trucking industry to a standstill during the initial lockdown, bringing down driver demand once again. However, freight volumes are almost back to pre-pandemic levels, and the driver shortage problem is back again and growing worse.
Why Is There a Driver Shortage?
Is the shortage caused by increased freight demand but then solves itself when that demand plummets? No, the driver shortage is a complex problem that is getting worse every year despite freight volume.
One of the biggest problems for the driver shortage is trucker age. The average age of a truck driver is 46, which means that many drivers are older and will be facing retirement soon.
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated this problem because older truck drivers fear for their health and have gone into early retirement.
There aren’t enough young qualified drivers to replace those leaving, causing the shortage to worsen.
Skill and Pay
The shortage also is due to a lack of skillful drivers. Many carriers report getting enough applicants but not enough qualified drivers.
Smaller companies that pay generous salaries have high standards for drivers. That means that these well-paid trucking jobs are limited to older drivers who have a lot of experience and good driving history.
However, larger companies that regularly hire new drivers usually pay low wages. The stress of the job and the small earnings leads to many new drivers to abandon the industry.
Risk and Lifestyle
Driving a tractor-trailer day after day is difficult not just on the body but also on the mind. Spending so much time on the road and away from home is too challenging for many.
Furthermore, truck driving is a dangerous profession as drivers need to contend with bad weather, other drivers, and difficult roads. The risk involved may be too much for some drivers to handle.
Solutions for the Driver Shortage
What are potential solutions to the driver shortage?
The most obvious answer to this is—increased wages. Of course, truck driving isn’t for everyone, but the industry could attract and maintain professional drivers if the salaries were fair.
Many companies, especially large ones, are paying the bare minimum to keep drivers on board. If these practices continue, the driver shortage likely won’t get better anytime soon.