According to industry experts, the United States trucking industry has been experiencing a massive driver shortage. The shortage is causing ripple effects and creating consequences for suppliers, carriers, and drivers alike. While the situation has worsened in recent years, it’s only expected to decline in the near future with the lack of incentives for drivers. Additionally, the demand for services is growing quickly with the increasing population and product demand. While the industry is growing, driver employment just can’t keep up. While this is good for trucking job prospects, the demand has created a busier schedule for individual drivers who are picking up the current slack. The American Trucking Association has said, “if conditions don’t change substantively, our industry could be short just over 100,000 drivers in five years and 160,000 drivers by 2028.”
Replacing retiring drivers and keeping up with economic growth requires the industry to hire about 110,000 workers per year, but many companies are struggling to do so. So what’s the fix? Here’s what you need to about the current national driver shortage.
Where Did the Shortage Come From?
More freight services are needed to account for product demand in the ever-growing U.S. economy. A substantial portion of this demand comes from the sharp increase in delivered products from online commerce, which has absolutely skyrocketed in the past decade. Additionally, the complex political situation concerning trade between the United States and China has increased the demand for American freight.
One of the biggest threats to the current driver workforce is simply age. Drivers are retiring at rates that are not balanced out by the rates of new recruits, shrinking the pool of candidates. Also, there is heavy competition from other blue-collar fields such as construction and plumbing that have similar pay ceilings and benefits without excessive traveling and time away from home. Many eligible candidates for trucking positions gravitate towards these other options, especially if they have families that they don’t want to be away from for long periods of time.
How Companies Can Help Fix it
There are many things that companies can do to get more drivers on their team. Some have tried to sweeten the pot by offering incentives and focusing on recruiting a lasting workforce. Here are some of the ways that companies can ease the burden of the driver shortages.
Improving Work-Life Balance
Companies should offer a better work-life balance for their employees. Truckers often work long and tiring hours, all while spending time away from home, and this can be unappealing to people outside of the industry thinking about jumping in. If companies encouraged more manageable hours, people might be less hesitant to accept the job. Additionally, providing extra days off between trips would allow drivers to achieve a more well-rounded routine. If companies could guarantee that there would be a good work-life balance, new drivers would be more likely to get involved, and this could help establish a lasting pool of drivers.
Encouraging More Women
The industry is missing out on a large potential workforce by not trying harder to appeal to female drivers. Less than 7% of semi-truck drivers are female, a staggeringly small percentage. Making more of an effort to get women into the industry could potentially double the workforce.
Additionally, while the trucking industry has drastically raised its percentages of minority drivers in the past decade, continuing this process will aid the crisis even more. Reaching out to all demographics will lead to a larger supply of qualified workers.
Recruiting more veterans can revolutionize the trucking industry. It eases their transition into civilian life and they likely already have experience with similar machinery from their served time. Many companies are formulating plans for programs that provide Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDL) for veterans with similar military-based licenses.
Persuading Younger Drivers
Another basis for training programs is getting younger recruits to serve in the workforce for decades to come. The average age for a commercial truck driver is 46, whereas the average age for other blue-collar professions is 37. Attracting more young drivers into the industry can help offset the progressing retirement rate, as long as these drivers can be convinced to stay in their careers. Fortunately, there are many incentives for entry-level employees to join the workforce, such as competitive salaries, job security, minimal accreditation, and all of the advancements in autonomous technology.
Get into the Industry Today
Now is a good time to enter the transportation and trucking industry considering the high demand and low supply. Getting into the industry young and qualified can set you up for a lifetime of stability, as the industry is only expected to grow in the coming years. If you’re interested in getting started and need help with financing, check out Mission Financial to jumpstart your future career as a semi-truck driver!