Understanding the National Truck Driver Shortage
Right now in the United States, there is a national truck driver shortage that is drastically changing how major carriers hire skilled drivers. Over the next 10 years, the trucking industry will need to hire roughly 1.1 million new drivers, or an average of nearly 110,000 per year according to a report published in July of 2019 by the ATA (American Trucking Association).
There are many contributing factors to the current truck driver shortage. One of the largest is the high average age of current drivers who will be retiring. The average truck driver is in their early 50’s. In a January 2020 interview with Business Insider, David Yeager, the CEO of Hub Group said “The real problem is we’re not really attracting a lot of millennials and the younger generations into the industry.” Another untapped pool of potential drivers is women.
According to the US Department of labor, women make up nearly 47% of U.S. workers yet only 6.6% of all truck drivers. The percentage has remained relatively the same for the past 20 years. The industry has recognized this and their efforts to increase that percentage seems to be working. Thomas J. O’Conner, president of YRC Freight said “So, that’s clearly an opportunity for us. I think as an industry we need to be more creative and resourceful to attract and retain top-notch people”. In addition to increasing pay, many companies are recruiting former military personnel, women, and minorities.
The ATA report also noted that if the industry was able to convince a higher percentage of 21-30 year olds or more female drivers of all ages, the shortage in the future would not be as high as projected. Retention is another concern.
The national truck driver shortage has created competition among major companies in an effort to keep their current drivers and to entice new ones including offering large signing bonuses, higher pay, 401Ks and paid time off. Companies are also introducing technology that makes trucks easier to drive and more comfortable.
Is There a Truck Driver Shortage in the U.S.?
In a 2019 NPR broadcast hosted by Frank Morris on the subject of driver shortages, a representative of Talent Acquisitions said they currently have 900 job openings for drivers. They stated that Walmart starts experienced drivers at $87,500 with good benefits. That roughly equates to $43.75 per hour based on a 40 hour week at 50 weeks a year allowing for two weeks’ vacation and sick time.
It’s hard to top that without incurring debt of large student loans for years of education. It is job openings such as these that pull experienced drivers away from their current employment leaving a void of seasoned drivers. Without new recruits it’s a struggle for companies to fill these vacant positions.
Addressing Reasons for Truck Driver Shortages
According to Bob Costello, chief economist and senior vice president of the American Trucking Association, the Virginia based ATA wants regulators to reduce the age of a CDL driver from 21 to 18 so that students graduating high school can go straight into driving instead of entering into other vocational trades such as construction. Under current federal law, drivers must be at least 21 to obtain a commercial driving license (CDL) to drive semi-trucks across state lines.
An 18 year old can hold a CDL license but would need to stick with a local driving job that did not cross state lines until they reach the age of 21. Companies’ strict hiring criteria that is currently in place limits the potential to reduce the shortage so lowering the age would greatly increase the recruiting pool.
Earlier this year Business Insider interviewed 3 CEO’s and 2 economists on the topic of driver shortages. Even though each had very different ideas regarding the subject they did seem to agree that America’s $800 billion trucking industry has a labor problem. The driver shortage is real and affects everyone causing higher shipping costs which are passed down to the consumer at the checkout counter. There is no quick fix but putting drivers behind the wheel is a good start.
CDL School at Truck Driver Institute
There is no way to address the national truck driver shortage other than training and hiring qualified drivers where they are needed most. Truck Driver Institute has 11 CDL training schools across the country and an extensive training program designed by industry experts.