It doesn’t take a degree in analytics to know when a problem exists or where it originates from. Such is the case with the current situation involving the trucking industry and the shortage of qualified new drivers to fill a slew of new truck driver jobs. While the U.S. Department of Labor has actively disputed this claim for many years, a recent report from the American Trucking Association is providing some context to the whole situation.
Their recent findings indicated that the trucking industry was actively searching for 60,800 new candidates to fill open jobs from back in 2018. According to ATA’s report, the demand for drivers was the highest ever and is an indication of a growing threat due to an aging demographic approaching retirement.
“Over the past 15 years, we’ve watched the shortage rise and fall with economic trends, but it ballooned last year to the highest level we’ve seen to date,” said Bob Costello, who serves as the Chief Economist for the ATA.
He also stated in a press release that the 2018 shortage was an increase of nearly 20 percent over 2017 numbers of 50,700 drivers.
Breaking Down the Numbers
The trucking industry has been dealing with an aging demographic of existing drivers for the past few decades. However, the surplus of active drivers compared to new replacements has been subsiding since 2000. In fact, just to meet current freight movement demands, the LTL and FTL carrier industry alone will need to hire and train 1.1 million new drivers. Furthermore, they would have to do it within the span of the next 10 years.
This equates to an average 110,000 per year, simply to keep pace with economic growth. However, with a current deficiency of 110,000 over the past two years, how are trucking companies expected to flip these numbers to become a surplus, especially with the majority of driver reductions existing in the vital over-the-road segment?
“That’s where the vast majority of this shortage lies,” Costello stated in the release. “The U.S. Department of Labor says that there are about 3.5 million total truck drivers, but that’s including all types of truck equipment. There are 1.8 million tractor-trailer drivers, but we’re even talking about a smaller subset of truck drivers than that.”
According to the ATA, there are roughly 550,000 for-hire over the road truckers currently in the U.S.
The report by the ATA was not just doom and gloom. In fact, one of the major focal points was addressing what is needed in order to make these numbers a reality. Some of the recommendations by the ATA included the following:
Finding a way to attract younger drivers working in other transportation segments.
Being creative with attracting recently retired military veterans.
Improve programs for more demographic diversity.
Increase average salary and pay.
Address lifestyle factors including providing more time at home and reduced on-road time.
Reducing wait times at trucking depots and distribution warehouses.
Increasing marketing towards female drivers.
The last item listed has been a growing problem for decades. In fact, in 2018, only 6.6 percent of truck driver jobs in the United States were filled by women. It has floated from 4 to 6 percent for the past twenty years. However, the increase in minority drivers has elevated to 40 percent. This number marks a significant rise from 26 percent in 2001.
Another minor yet potentially important regulatory change was recently announced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The same day the ATA report was published, the FMCSA announced that they would be removing a regulatory restriction. This is with regards to the application process for the standard CDL.
Currently, applications must take their general and specialized knowledge tests in the state they live. The new restriction will permit prospective drivers to take these initial tests in states outside of their residence.
Ultimately, the jury is still out on whether these new standards improve the retention of new CDL drivers. However, it is the first step in the right direction!