ATA Says the Nation Needs Another 80,000 Truck Drivers
By now, most people are well-aware of the labor shortage (among other factors) which is currently making it a bit harder for the economy from returning to “normal” across the U.S. While the shortage of workers is consistent across nearly every industry, it is arguably most striking in the logistics industry, most notably in the trucking sector as truck drivers are becoming more scarce.
According to the American Trucking Association, the United States is currently about 80,000 truck drivers short of what is needed. Even more troubling is the fact that this number could double to 160,000 by 2030 if steps aren’t taken now to address the issue.
This driver shortage begs a few questions:
- What Is Causing the Problem?
- What Can be Done to Address the Shortage?
Let’s address both of these questions in detail.
What is Causing the Truck Driver Shortage?
The causes of the driver shortage are many, but some of the main ones are as follows:
Aging Driver Pool
Many current truck drivers are nearing retirement age. When these drivers leave the workforce in the next decade, the number of needed new drivers will actually be closer to 1 million. This estimate is to account for those who retire and will no longer be factored into the truck driver career pool.
Gender Roles in Trucking
Historically, truck drivers have been predominantly male. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up just under 8% of the truck driving field. With such a large discrepancy, the job of a truck driver is, in some ways, seen as a job that is only appropriate for half of the population. This is, of course, untrue and until we change the narrative around this issue, this hurdle will be one of the slowest to jump.
Nature of the Job
With the recent interest in working from home and hybrid jobs, many workers aren’t interested in being on the road and away from their families for extended periods of time. But for those who are looking for a rewarding career and have the ability to be on the road for, sometimes lengthy, periods of time, a career in trucking can be a highly beneficial career path. Furthermore, there are actually plenty of local trucking positions all around the nation that need to be fulfilled, many of which do not involve doing long-hauls.
What Can Be Done to Address the Shortage of Truck Drivers?
Leaders in the trucking industry are well aware of the problems discussed in the previous section. Some of these issues can be addressed fairly quickly, while others may take some serious time, effort, and creative problem-solving.
Eliminating Barriers for Younger Truck Drivers
The Drive-Safe Act was introduced to the U.S. senate in 2019. This bill is designed to allow drivers under the age of 21 to be trained as truck drivers for interstate routes. The theory behind the bill is as follows:
- Almost any driver can become licensed to operate a commercial vehicle at 18 years of age in most states and can drive within said state.
- In order to drive between states, commercial drivers must be at least 21 years of age.
- If this interstate restriction is eliminated, a huge pool of potential drivers will become available.
For younger workers who are trying to decide between waiting a few years so that they can drive between states and just getting a job in another field, the Drive-Safe Act may help to nudge these individuals toward the trucking industry.
Appealing to Women and Minorities
Years ago, some trucks were not even built with women drivers in mind. Women who were interested in becoming drivers quickly found out that the pedals were too far away to reach, as they were built for men who, on average, tend to be taller. This is of course just one minor difference but there are indeed others. Luckily, most trucking companies have addressed a majority of these issues and the industry has begun to see a larger than ever push to get more women into the trucking industry.
Fixing all of the known issues relies on a partially societal shift. However, trucking companies can take an active role in addressing these hurdles in this way via marketing campaigns, the development of apps to help drivers feel more safe and connected, and so on. Some of these steps have already been taken, but much more must be done to appeal to women and minorities so that these individuals can see what a great opportunity the trucking industry may afford them.
Some trucking and retail companies have started experimenting with automation throughout certain parts of the delivery process. While we are still not at the point where driverless trucks will be the norm quite yet, this is certainly something to look out for in the future and if implemented correctly, it just may serve as the ultimate tool to alleviate some of the more heavy lifting, so to speak.
It’s been a challenging few years for the trucking industry, no doubt about it. However, there are small, measurable steps we can all take to help address this issue. Through demonstrating how a career in truck driving is an excellent choice for a wide variety of workers, leveraging automation technology, and raising compensation for drivers; we will move past this obstacle and return to business as usual.