There is an undeniable tightness in the trucking industry’s driver market. Trucking employed more than 7 million people in 2014, 3.4 million of those were drivers. But still, carriers feel the real impact of the unwavering driver shortage. Why is America having a difficult time retaining and attracting truck drivers? Mostly because of strict regulations, relatively low pay and a universal lack of interest in the career. Carriers are working hard to end the problem, changing how they recruit and retain drivers – increasing pay and hiring new driver’s right out of training programs.
Even as carriers adjust to appeal to different demographics, 90% of them claim they can’t find enough drivers who meet DOT’s criteria. Currently, the driver shortage is estimated to be about 40,000 drivers. The industry needs 96,000 new drivers annually to keep pace with demand. If freight demand grows as projected, the driver shortage could be as high as 240,000 by 2022.
In 2014, trucks moved 9.96 billion tons of freight. Freight volumes and customer demands continue to intensify, and it’s expected that the driver shortage will get worse before it gets better. The growing driver shortage will significantly affect supply chain operations.
Can companies prepare for even more limited capacity? Sure, shippers can shift distribution patterns, outsource transportation to a 3PL, switch to intermodal transportation and/or ship in larger quantities with each outbound shipment. But, at the end of the day, truck drivers are irreplaceable. As an industry, we must work on lifestyle balance and productivity improvements to help prevent this problem from becoming worse.