Trucking’s Continual Curse: Ever-Shrinking Rosters and Growing Turnover Rates
All in all, 2017 has been a good year for trucking.
After a shaky period of uncertainty that was 2016, the freight industry has seen better levels of demand and improved pricing over the past twelve months. Many attribute this to improved levels of consumer confidence, while others point to the forward-thinking business strategies of freight carriers.
The success could be due to a combination of the two – however, there are still a few problems in the trucking industry. The switch to electronic logging devices has people worried, and the promise of big infrastructure overhauls never came to pass.
However, there is another big problem that has carriers worried – the driver shortage. The American Trucking Associations stated the industry could be short by about 50,000 drivers as the year wraps up.
Why Can’t Carriers Find (or Keep) Talent?
Trucking carriers have a lot to keep track of. A growing regulatory landscape, new equipment upgrades, and many other obligations each command a great deal of attention.
But beyond the patchwork of safety rules or high-tech equipment is the backbone of the industry – the driver. Truck driving remains the most popular occupation in most U.S. states, but this doesn’t mean people are rushing to enter the industry.
Trucking has seen it’s fair share of changes over the past couple decades. Things like sticky rates and an ever-tightening regulatory clampdown means trucking isn’t the liberating, lucrative position it once was. Even as carriers attempt to lure drivers in with better rates, improved benefits packages, and company stock plans, keeping them around is tough.
This could be because young drivers are quick to bounce from fleet to fleet, largely in an effort to gain sign-on bonuses and find the best long-term deal they can. But ATA officials predict that by 2024, the industry could need upwards of 170,000 drivers.
Lowering the Barriers for New Drivers
In an effort to refine their approach to onboarding new talent, trucking regulators have considered making it easier for aspiring drivers to reach the road.
Earlier access to licensing privileges, improve avenues for veterans to use their experience behind the wheel, and even promoting trucking to underrepresented groups may also prove helpful in combating the driver shortage.
With commercial trucks moving nearly three-quarters of America’s freight, it is imperative that the industry finds enough drivers to meet consumer demand. Even with autonomous vehicles on the horizon, human drivers will be highly valuable for the foreseeable future.