In 2018, the trucking industry was short roughly 60,800 drivers – up nearly 20% from 2017’s figure of 50,700. If current trends hold, the American Trucking Association (ATA) says the shortage could rise to more than 160,000 by 2028.
The driver shortage is a problem for the entire supply chain reports www.agweb.com, as 71.4% of all freight tonnage is moved on the nation’s highways, ATA says in its Truck Driver Shortage Analysis 2019 report.
“The increase in the driver shortage should be a warning to carriers, shippers and policymakers, because if conditions don’t change substantively, our industry could be short just over 100,000 drivers in five years and 160,000 drivers in 2028,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a news release announcing the report.
To meet the U.S. demand, the trucking industry must hire roughly 1.1 million new drivers, or an average of nearly 110,000 per year, to replace retiring drivers and keep on pace with the growth in the economy.
What’s causing the shortage?
The trucking industry has a relatively high average age of the existing workforce, ATA says. The average driver age in the for-hire, over-the-road truckload industry is 46. Other trucking sectors such as less-than-truckload and private carriers have an even higher average age. As drivers retire, they often go into the for-hire truckload labor pool to recruit drivers.
“For the last year and a half, it’s been really tough to find drivers period. Put qualified on top of that and good drivers on top of that, and well it’s been impossible,” says Brian Stoller, owner of Stoller Trucking in Gridley, Ill. “Employees today want the perfect work day scenario with evenings off so they don’t miss any events, but that’s not conducive for the demand of transportation needs. It’s a change that we’re all seeing across the U.S. – it’s hard to find good qualified workers and truck driving falls right into that.”
In addition, the trucking industry struggles to attract all segments of the population. In 2018, only 6.6% of the drivers were women. In 2018, 40.4% were minorities.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is finding qualified drivers, ATA says. This makes the impact of the shortage much worse than the numbers suggest.