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With the truck driver shortage, how many more drivers will be enough?

How many more truck drivers are needed to balance the demand for truck transportation with the supply of capacity? My answer to this question for shippers procuring long-distance (outside of a given metropolitan area) dry van transportation, for both truckload and less than truckload (LTL), is that approximately 25,000 truck drivers are needed. As a researcher at Michigan State’s Broad College of Business, I will explain how I arrived at this figure, based on available data, writes Jason Miller, Associate Professor of Logistics at Michigan State University. 

The first step in answering this question is identifying the current level of demand for truck transportation and making an assumption about the level of demand over the coming months. My preferred measure of demand for truck transportation is an index I’ve developed with my colleague Yem Bolumole at the University of Tennessee that uses data from the Census Bureau’s and Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Commodity Flow Survey to calculate implied demand for truck transportation. This data is based on industry output derived from monthly government statistics published by the Census Bureau, Federal Reserve Board, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Bureau of Economic Analysis.

With these assumptions about the demand made, I will now turn to the available data on employment. These data are published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) through the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program, which surveys approximately 144,000 business and government agencies, representing approximately 440,000 establishments (or unique business locations).

A few caveats about these data are in order. First, the system used to classify truck transportation establishments, the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), is a rather aggregated view compared to how we think about classifying trucking companies within the industry. For example, the NAICS groups truck transportation establishments engaged in long-haul transportation of flatbed loads, refrigerated freight, or chemicals into the same sector (NAICS 48423: Specialized, Long-Distance Truck Transportation). However, we would consider these distinct industry sectors. Given the NAICS maps clearest to dry van transportation via the general freight designation, and then splits general freight into truckload (NAICS 484121) and less-than-truckload (NAICS 484122)—my analysis will focus only on these two subsectors.

Second, the CES program does not distinguish between establishments that are for-hire companies versus establishments that are private fleets. Because of this, these data likely include some private fleets, with the caveat that it would be rare for a company to have one or more unique establishments that primarily perform general freight, long-distance truck transportation but only do so on a private fleet basis.

Third, the CES data counts all employees at an establishment, which means these data include dock workers, mechanics, dispatchers, accountants, etc., employed by an establishment that engages in truck transportation.

Fourth, the CES data does not include self-employed workers, which means they miss many owner-operators (either leased subcontractors or true independents). To the extent that self-employed workers today exceed what we observed in 2018, a likely possibility given record business applications in transportation and warehousing coupled with record new operating authority grants, the CES data will overstate the magnitude of the employment gap.

Read the complete article at www.chrobinson.com.


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