Driver Shortage: Countdown to Crunch Time? or Earnings Opportunity?
According to a recent series of articles published by Overdrive – Owner Operators Trucking Magazine, there are growing signals in the trucking industry that the demand for truck drivers will rise dramatically faster than the supply of qualified drivers over the next 10 years.
Help-wanted ads in local newspapers are dominated by the 800- numbers of trucking companies looking for CDL holders. On the Internet, anyone who visits a few trucking-related pages soon will find banner ads by driver-desperate carriers appearing next to a favorite cat video. The quarterly earnings reports of publicly traded trucking companies caution investors about the high cost and potential dangers of the growing driver shortage.
The factors that could lead to a more severe driver shortage – and a resulting pay hike – are simple enough:
- A large number of long-time drivers are approaching retirement age.
- New regulations – notably the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program – have pushed many drivers out of the industry.
- Productivity losses due to the new hours of service regulations mean more drivers are required to deliver the same amount of freight.
- Many fleets have been cautious about rebuilding their capacity since the recession, due to the sporadic recovery, and would be hard-pressed to quickly add trucks and drivers should demand spike.
FUELING DRIVER DEMAND | These key factors are creating a demand for nearly 100,000 new drivers each year over the coming decade as experienced drivers reach retirement age and trucking continues to grow, says the American Trucking Associations.
According to a story published on TruckingInfo.com, Chief Economist Bob Costello of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) recently told an audience that fleets are adjusting to continued tightness in the driver market by increasing pay and hiring newer drivers.
“Fleets in all segments of trucking have told us they are having a more difficult time finding qualified drivers than they were a year ago,” Costello said. “As a result, more fleets are considering hiring drivers straight out of driver training programs and nearly three-quarters of those we surveyed plan to increase pay or have already done so.”
The industry needs to find an average of roughly 96,000 new drivers annually to keep pace with demand. If freight demand grows as it is projected to, the driver shortage could balloon to nearly 240,000 drivers by 2022, according to ATA data.