One of the other major things we learned during the pandemic is just how fragile and complex our supply chain really is. Many of the goods and services that we depend on were caught up in a web of factory closures, stay-at-home orders, and rapid increases and decreases in demand. Even today, many of our supply chains are only just recovering, while many others remain deeply restrained as a result of remaining slowdowns and closures overseas.
Transportation and distribution systems are an essential part of the supply chain that has been significantly impacted by labor shortages as a result of the pandemic. Much of the industry was already suffering from labor shortages before, but the supply chain craziness released by COVID-19 has amplified the situation. Today, many industry leaders are searching for ways to help ease the shortage and increase efficiencies.
A Growing Problem
It may not have been very apparent to most of the population prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but truck drivers are an essential part of the domestic economy. They move an estimated 70% of all domestic freight shipments. This includes things like foods, medicines, and many goods that are purchased via online shopping. Since the pandemic began, online shopping has grown exponentially, which also adds to the strain.
But the problem had been developing well before the pandemic added the extra workload. Since the early 1990s, the number of goods transported across the country has steadily gone up while the number of drivers has remained roughly the same. To make matters worse, the majority of drivers are baby boomers that are nearing retirement age, leaving an even greater gap.
Beyond the growing amount of available work and an aging workforce, the industry is struggling to find new drivers that are willing to stay in the position for long. Many cite the difficult lifestyle, big safety risks, and pay rates. Truckers spend a lot of time away from home which takes a large toll on bodies and relationships and many just don’t see the job as worth it.
In order to address some of the bigger concerns, many in the industry are looking to incorporate technology that makes truckers’ lives easier and safer. For instance, many are looking at legislation that will help with incorporating more driver-assist technologies. Things like collision mitigation technology can reduce the number of accidents significantly. Automatic emergency braking in heavy trucks is close to becoming mandatory.
Many are looking toward implementing even more ambitious technology in order to help solve the driver shortage. Autonomously driven vehicles are thought to be a real, viable solution to the driver shortage and it is estimated that in the next decade nearly 90% of trucks could be self-driving.
Technologies such as this can make a big difference in the issues associated with the supply chain during the pandemic. This is just one of many emergency plans that can help reduce the likelihood of disruption. Many of the largest trucking companies such as Daimler and techy upstarts such as Tesla are putting a great deal of investment into self-driving trucking tech.
Attracting New Faces
Of course, self-driving technology doesn’t mean that there won’t be drivers present at all. Chances are truck drivers are still going to be around for a long time, which presents the problem of filling positions. Industry leaders are striving to attract young potential drivers from a variety of diverse backgrounds.
One of the most important ways they are working toward this goal is by incorporating benefits that many drivers have been asking for years. The biggest of these includes things like pay boosts and more bonus opportunities for bigger or more challenging trips. Many are also advocating making it easier to get a CDL, the basic licensing required to drive large trucks. By lowering the hurdles, companies are hoping to attract more people.
Others are striving to make driving a bit more comfortable for drivers during their trips. Some are looking to offer better benefits and more options for getting healthcare. All of these are things that drivers are frequently asking for.