Driver shortage: Is it real and why does it happen?

Peter Tulisaari

By Peter Tulisaari Director of Business Development at King Solutions

truck driver oneWhere have all the driver’s gone?

No, that’s not the title of Paula Cole’s next hit single. It’s a very serious question that many logistics companies are asking themselves. Driver shortage is on the lips and tongues of many, though the views on the topic are hardly unanimous.

Ask one person about driver shortage, and they’ll tell you exactly where it started, why it’s happening, and how to fix. Then there are those who think it’s a myth altogether. You know, like the moon landing.

While we’re not here to provide finite answers on the topic, it is certainly a topic worth discussing. Let’s start from the top.

Is There a Driver Shortage in America?
The recession of the late 2000’s impacted a lot of industries, but some were hit particularly hard. The trucking industry was one of those. With soaring fuel costs, decreases in freight being moved and sold, and everyone looking to cut expenses as much as they could, drivers took a serious hit.

Many owner-operators kept their trucks in park for a while or sold them off completely.

While that might not be where the driver shortage started, it is where the problem started getting worse. With a lack of competitive pay and high expenses, turnover rates at trucking companies increased significantly.

Though parts of the economy have recovered since, the struggle is still very real for the trucking industry.

According to the American Trucking Association, the turnover rate for large truckload drivers is 95%. Though it’s actually been worse before, that’s still an incredibly high rate, even when factoring in seasonal demands of the industry.

Of course, turnover rates aren’t the only cause of shortage.

A Need for New Blood
The average age of a truck driver is in the 50’s. For a lot of people, that’s getting close to retirement age. And if they’re not retiring by choice, many have to step down due to health. Others are switching to part-time.

Meanwhile, there’s a lack of younger drivers to replace them.

Simply put, the industry isn’t drawing in a lot of young drivers like it used to who are looking to spend three-fourths of their month on the road. Instead, they’re finding competitive pay closer to home.

If this trend continues, trucking companies could legitimately start running out of drivers in a few years.

Other Issues
There are a number of other factors that potentially play into the grand scheme. Increased safety regulations and laws, though well meaning and often necessary, put added stress on the industry.

Also, in an ironic turn, as the economy strengthens, the trucking related issues seem to be more apparent.

As more goods are sold, more freight needs to be moved, increasing the demand for drivers, which are already on shortage. In addition, these growing businesses are then expanding their own staffs, offering positions that many truck drivers switch over to so they don’t have to be on the road.

What Does the Future Look Like?
It’s always hard to say how events like these will play out. Some companies are finding success with offering higher pay, competitive benefits, and even taking care of certain fees for their drivers.

Perhaps we’ll see some major changes in logistics in an effort to lure younger workers to be truck-drivers.

However the industry trends go, you can expect to see King Solutions there, helping freight get to where it needs to be.

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