Looking for a Change? The Trucking Industry Needs More Drivers
The U.S. has a staggering 3.4 million tractor trailer drivers on the road, but with the economy on the upturn, there is a greater demand from truck drivers now more than ever. In their fourth major analysis of the ongoing trucker shortage, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) reported that this year, the number of drivers the sector needs is on track to set a new record high, with 47,500 unfilled seats across the nation.
If the economy continues to improve even modestly, demand will increase, which could add 26,000 more open seats in heavy-duty trucks next year for a total of 73,000. The ATA said that if the trend were to continue for the next ten years, we are looking at a driver shortage of about 175,000 spots by 2024. That means the trucking industry would need to hire about 89,000 drivers each year for the next ten years.
The ATA also noted that trucker needs may very well never get that high, but if the growing trend isn’t reversed, the nation could suffer adverse effects in the form of sizable shipping delays, higher costs, and possible shortages of goods. “The ability to find enough qualified drivers is one of our industry’s biggest challenges,” said Bill Graves, the ATA’s president and CEO. “This latest report plainly lays out the problem – as well as some possible solutions – to the driver shortage.”
So what’s driving the shortage? About 78% of the future demand can be attributed to industry growth (33%)and retirements (45%). The average age of over-the-road truckload drivers is 49, and as this generation approaches retirement age, a gap opens up in trucking companies that need to be filled. The ATA’s report does not factor in the impact that new federal regulations, such as the hours of service rule, will have on driver demand.
Motor carriers are often unable to find applicants that meet the minimum requirements to become a trucker. In fact, a 2012 survey reported that 88% of fleets deemed most of their applicants as unqualified, so trucking companies may think the shortage is a lot worse than what statistics show.
Other factors that contribute are gender demographics and more job alternatives. Women account for 47% of all workers in the U.S. but only 6% of drivers are female. With the boom of the technology age in the last 5 years, there are many more job fields for one to choose from which probably offer better pay and more time at home than a trucking job.
There are several things trucking companies can try to implement to remedy the problem. Some are packing delivery schedules so drivers can be home more often, but there are limitations to this system. Some are increasing driver pay and/or benefits, which has risen significantly in the
last couple of years. But companies are finding higher pay by itself may not be enough to lure new drivers in to a job that is a demanding as trucking.
Some companies are expanding their recruiting campaigns to cater specifically towards woman and veterans. As part of the multi-industry “Hiring our Heroes” campaign, the ATA has committed to placing 100,000 veterans in new trucking jobs.
Anyone considering a new profession or a career change should look into what the trucking industry has to offer. The image and the lifestyle of a trucking job is changing. It’s not at all what it used to be, and you might be surprised at what you find.