Reasons for the Shortage
The most obvious reason is because available jobs outnumber the skilled drivers able to fill them. This is partially alleviated if more drivers obtain commercial driving licenses (CDLs), but that would only fix one symptom of the problem. The driver shortfall has impacted the heavy haul industry since America’s first recession in 2008. In the 7 years that followed, approximately 35,000 trucker jobs remained unfilled because customers purchased fewer items, and large companies hauled less material.
Additionally, American Trucker Association (ATA) statistics indicate the turnover for existing drivers increased by 130%. Thus, the heavy haul industry has been forced to rely on recruiters and driving schools to hire new truckers. While this may be a good strategy, it means drivers are often younger and less experienced. Some student drivers enter the heavy haul industry without obtaining a CDL or even a permit, making it dangerous for them to be on the road.
Finally, technology impacts the trucking industry every day. Google is currently working on driverless cars, drones, and other transportation options that could put truckers out of business. Even if this doesn’t happen for several years, heavy transportation has its share of unreliable factors. Breakdowns, mechanical delays, and delays at transition stations make it more difficult to ship items quickly and efficiently.
How to Alleviate the Shortage
Industry members must acknowledge and alleviate this shortage if heavy haul trucking is to remain lucrative. Statistically, the average driver is 50 or older, so the industry must attract younger drivers. Experts agree, making trucks comfortable and technologically current is one of the best ways to do this. For example, trucks must come equipped with diagnostic tools for quicker, cheaper repairs, as well as devices that improve communication among truckers. Finally, the trucking industry needs to focus on “regional jobs and [family life]” to attract young drivers who want to make a profit but still have time to build and enjoy their families.