What's Causing Nationwide Truck Driver Shortage & What's Being Done to Address Dilemma?

Freight management solutions provider LTX Transportation Services writes that throughout the past decade the trucking industry has struggled with a shortage of truck drivers, and that the problem is becoming increasingly acute. Noted is that more than 68% of all freight is moved on U.S. highways, and with the driver deficit increasing pay, significant impacts on supplier costs and consumer pricing may result. Additional fallout includes shipping delays and minimized stock on hand at stores. Fuel transportation can be similarly impacted.
Truck Driver Shortage Affects Propane LPG Industry. BPN propane industry's leading source for news & info since 1939.

Providing an overview of this nationwide, multi-industry dilemma, LTX explains that one of the largest issues influencing the driver shortage is the demographic of the current workforce, primarily age and gender. The trucking industry relies on male employees 45 years of age or older. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of a commercial truck driver in the U.S. is 55. “With an alarming number of these drivers retiring within the next 10-20 years, we are quickly approaching a dangerous cliff, a cliff that, if fallen from, will hit the industry hard if new, younger workers aren’t hired into the industry.”

However, this effort has proved difficult. It is a federal requirement that drivers must be 21 years of age to hold an interstate commercial driver’s license. This leaves a three-year, post-high-school gap where potential employees are lured away by alternative employment opportunities.

Another major demographic issue is that the industry is really only tapping into a little more than half of the workforce population, adds LTX. Women make up 47% of the nation’s workforce but only account for 6% of commercial truck drivers. “The problem here is changing the stereotype that the trucking industry is a macho job for macho men. To better convince women that they are welcome, carriers need to make it clear that women are not only wanted, but needed, in the truck driver career pool.”

The consultancy emphasizes that another topic that needs to be addressed is the lifestyle of a truck driver. “For many, this lifestyle isn’t ideal and steers people away from even considering a career as a truck driver. Most drivers, when new to the industry, are assigned to routes that keep them on the road for extended periods of time, returning home only a few times a month. Adapting to living in a truck and showering at rest areas can be difficult.”

Further, being on the road non-stop also limits drivers’ options regarding nutrition. No one can binge on fast food and gas station snacks without some health consequences, not to mention combining that kind of eating with the sedentary lifestyle of a truck driver and the pounds will keep packing on. Sleep deprivation is another problem faced.

LTX Transportation comments that due to the complexity of the driver shortage there is no one solution, but a few marketplace responses and potential policy solutions could reduce the shortfall.

Among them: increase driver pay. “Just as we are experiencing now with gas prices, the natural market reaction when there is a shortage of a good or service is to increase the price. In this scenario, that price would be truck driver wages. Most carriers have been offering pay increases, coupled with a comprehensive benefits package and 401(k)/tuition reimbursement options.”

Decrease time on the road. “Increasing time at home and decreasing time on the road can take so many of those lifestyle issues out of the equation. With the LTL [less than truckload] hub-and-spoke system and increased distribution centers, this makes LTL more desirable by decreasing the average length-of-haul and keeping our truckers more localized.”

Lower regulated driving age. “The 18-20-year-old group has the highest rate of unemployment of any age bracket. Having the age minimum of a commercial truck driver set at 21 eliminates a large pool of competent workers from filling open positions.”

Target minorities, women, and veterans. “To effectively address the driver shortage, trucking companies should look for ways to entice more women, minorities, and veterans. Minorities and women are an overwhelmingly under-represented group within the trucking industry. Veterans are another source of low-hanging fruit as many are looking to transition into fulfilling careers.”

Autonomous trucking. “With the advanced technology autonomous trucking brings, along with the benefits of reducing daily driving stress and boredom, it’s sure to attract young, tech-savvy drivers to the industry.”

Utilize less-than-truckload shipping. “On the road (OTR) and full-truckload (FTL) shipping methods are where the majority of the driver shortage takes place, as these methods require a lot of time on the road and therefore that hard truck driver lifestyle. LTL and parcel drivers, on the other hand, come home every night.”

LTX concludes that, “Currently, we have a driver shortage of 48,000, and when aligning these numbers with freight forecasts, we could have a shortage of 330,000 drivers by 2024. If carriers start thinking more strategically about untapped workforce pools and continue to offer comprehensive benefit packages with competitive pay, we can fix this problem. Another option is to focus your shipping needs on less-than-truckload shipping, where drivers are given shorter, more localized routes, allowing them to come home each night.”

For more on the truck driver shortage, LTX offers a free e-book download at http://ltxsolutions.com/thank-you-driver-shortage-and-eld-mandate/.