While many industries got hit from the pandemic that has been ravaging the world since January, trucking was not among them…or at least the impact was not as severe. Trucks kept on rolling during these difficult times, delivering essential and non-essential cargo, while unemployment grew.
Although some carriers did shut their doors (most notable example here is Comcar), the industry keeps on rolling. Comcar did well actually, as they decided to sell the subsidiary companies rather than liquidating and auctioning their assets, effectively allowing their truckers to keep their jobs.
The truth is that America faces a massive truck driver shortage. It has faced before the pandemic, and it still is.
The Estimates Are Very Bad (for the Industry)
Before the pandemic, the American Trucker Association, the national trade association for the trucking industry, announced that there is a nationwide shortage of about 60,000 drivers.
The estimates show even more dire numbers for the coming years, estimating the number to grow to 100,000 in 2024 and 160,000 in 2028.
It does not matter that the average salaries of truckers are commendable (in fact, trucking is one of the highest paying jobs that does not require a college education). There is still a shortage of drivers.
Although many factors contribute to the shortage, the most notable ones are:
1. The stigma with truck driving
2. The freight volumes are growing
3. For every 8 drivers that are retiring, only 1 driver takes their place
The Consequences Are Even Worse
Since the trucking industry is one of the essential pillars of the modern economy, the shortage may directly affect modern life and although the shortage may mean higher wages for truck drivers, it will lead to increased prices for products delivered by trucking (which is above 70 percent of all freight transported annually in the U.S.). At the end of the day, the increase in wages will make little to no impact on the truck driver’s bottom line.
What is Causing the Shortage?
Although there is no silver bullet for solving the shortage, alleviating, and eliminating some of the major hurdles in recruiting new drivers may just defuse this ticking time-bomb that will most definitely go off if not addressed.
So what are these hurdles?
-The Age Barrier for Young Drivers
The first major hurdle in recruiting new drivers is the age barrier for young drivers. As a reminder, current law requires the driver to be 21 to drive interstate. This creates a three-year gap for drivers fresh out of high school to drive the entry jobs in the trucking industry (namely OTR driving).
The American Trucking Association has proposed a bill to lower the required age for interstate commercial driving to 18. This will close the three-year gap and will allow companies to recruit in high schools.
-Only 6-7 Percent of Truckers are Women
The days of trucking being a male-only profession are long gone. The percentage of women in trucking is rapidly increasing, from 4-6 percent in 2010 to 5-8 percent in 2015. 2019 has seen 6.7 percent of women drivers, which is an all-time high.
Many companies are looking to recruit women in their fleets. The technology advancements have made this difficult job available to women and with the right incentives, companies can dive into this huge pool of potential drivers.
-CPM to Weekly Pay
Even though we mentioned that the average trucker salary is great, the reality is that truckers rarely get paid realistically for their work. CPM (or cost-per-mile) is an industry staple for truck driving. However, as good as it may be on paper, the reality is that some trucking jobs require a lot of time loading/unloading cargo. This leads to less mileage and fewer earnings.
Some companies try to negate this by paying drivers for loading/unloading, but still, this does not guarantee the minimum expected weekly pay. By introducing a guaranteed minimum weekly pay, the drivers will feel more secure with their job. Bonuses for a job-well-done help a lot as well.
-Leverage Veterans and Felons as a Workforce
There are a lot of veterans and felons who are unemployed. They represent a huge pool of new candidates for the trucking industry.
With well-thought-out programs to attract these people, the trucking industry will bolster its ranks. On one hand, veterans are disciplined, hard-working people. On the other hand, felons are looking for a second chance in life. The latter have it harder, as they are stigmatized by society, and by giving them a chance, trucking companies may get their hardest workers yet.
-Don’t Set Unrealistic Requirements for New Drivers
This is perhaps the biggest problem and yet very easy to fix. Companies need to just not set high requirements for new drivers. The entry-level for the job is unrealistically high, and many drivers quit outright because they cannot qualify for a job that requires years of experience fresh out of CDL school.
Many claim that trucking has no real shortage of drivers. They argue that it is all an elaborate hoax to have unrealistic requirements for recruiting new drivers. However, this is also one of the causes of the shortage itself, as people turn to other careers and leave trucking for good.
Whatever may be the case, trucking companies and the regulatory bodies need to take the shortage seriously. If the trend remains as it currently is, the whole country will suffer for it.
If you are a person who is on the look for a truck driving job or want to start a career in trucking, we know the beginning is hard. But, trucking is a career in which you can breeze through the ranks quickly, and start earning exceptional amounts of money after the first year. The only thing you need to do is hold on until you get enough experience.
Specially written for RoadScholar.com
By: Mile D. from TruckerJobUSA.com