Trucker Shortage Rolls On
Whatever the contributing factors may be; new federal trucking regulations, not enough pay, more freight shipping needs, more economic spending, a tough winter… the nation is still in the midst of a trucker shortage. The trucking industry hauls 70% of about 9 billion total tons every year, all dependent upon having enough truck drivers. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates we currently need another 30,000 truck drivers to fill in the gaps as well as another 200,000 by 2020, adding to the already 3.2million working now. Adding to the problem is the amazingly high turnover rate of 115-120%.
Some companies are overwhelmed by the amount of cargo needing to be shipped and not enough drivers to get the jobs done in a timely manner, and things may be worsening. This could mean higher prices for the rest of the economy. New hours-of-service regulations limit the amount a trucker can work per day, which the trucking industry says restrains productivity and leads to higher cost in trucking charges and to the products sitting on our stores’ shelves.
Jim Wanty, president of O&W, an Ypsilanti-based beer distributor, feels the effects first hand. He needs to add about 10% more staff to the 40 truckers he already employs that are often working 12 hour shifts. His company works in six counties, with 35 trucks. “We need more trucks on the road to deliver our product. The trucks get filled right to the top,” he said. “People are now gainfully employed again, and beer’s a recreational commodity.” He’s dealing with supply-chain issues up the channel, before shipments even get to him. “There’s a shortage of trucks of getting products to our warehouses,” Wanty said. “Then, we’re low on inventory. We either lose sales or we have to make it up at the end of the week when products come in with longer hours or Saturday deliveries.”
Conway freight in Ann Arbor, Michigan has 9,500 trucks and about 15,000 drivers making up its fleet and crew. But spokesman Gary Frantz said that still have 800 positions needing to be filled. To get more drivers in the seats of their trucks, they plan on reopening their driving school in Romulus, Mich. He notes the new hours-of-service rule is taking its toll. “It takes more drivers to move the same amount of freight,” he added. “We’re still seeing some rebounding occur since the winter caused some shippers to hold back on their business activities.”
Columbia Steel and Wire, a company in Cleveland, Ohio who makes steel bars and wire, notes the freight has risen 10 to 15%. President Marty Koppelman believes the shortage can be viewed as a supply-and-demand issue for trucking companies and their potential hires. “It’s been extremely busy, so there were not enough trucks to handle all the volume. When that happens, the truckers are very selective, so they’re only going to take the loads when they make the most money and have a round trip,” Koppelman explained. “They know they have you. They jack that price up.”
Trucking companies are doing a number of things to try and attract drivers, such as picking up the bill for driving school, offering higher starting salaries and bigger benefit packages concerning health insurance and 401k plans. Some are even having drivers meet each other half way through long hauls and switching routes, so both can get back home faster. If you are looking to start a career in trucking or simply looking for a new employer, keep the above in mind when making your selection.