The Driver Shortage & How to Combat It

Posted by Kristen Melendez on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 @ 09:33 AM

The Driver Shortage How to Combat It

There is a reported shortage of 30,000 drivers in the United States today, and with an influx in ecommerce and mobile purchasing, the need for reliable, young truck drivers is growing. Fact is, the idea of a “truck driver” is changing, and as more and more young people go to college rather than trade school, they fail to realize how lucrative and reliable a truck-driving job can be.

We’ll analyze exactly what caused the shortage of drivers—from the recession to new government regulations—and we’ll talk about the different ways to combat the shortage and incentivize new drivers. The field is changing, and the next generation of truck drivers has a lot to learn, as do companies hiring drivers, so everyone’s needs get met. 

Why Is There a Shortage?

These days, the only time you hear the word “shortage” is when referring to jobs, not workers. Except for the truck driving industry. Here’s what led to the turnaround.

  1. Massive Layoffs Caused Driver & Truck Shortage

    Massive layoffs hit the trucking industry at the worst time, right as many of the drivers were close to retirement. So when jobs started to come back, most drivers had already sold their equipment—as had most companies—and most drivers had already retired or found other work.
  2. CSA Regulations Made Drivers Harder to Get

    Simply put: the government made it harder for truck drivers and trucking companies. The Carrier Safety Administration put in new regulations for truck drivers that made trips longer—with more required stops—and that further penalized drivers for traffic infringements.
  3. Potential Drivers Lack Incentive

    Now, as old drivers have retired and no longer desire to get back into the workforce, the younger generation lacks incentive to become truck drivers. There’s been a push for higher education and less push for trade schools and practical jobs.

How Do You Combat the Shortage?

Transportation companies are working hard to attract new drivers—they’re critical to performance and good service. Without drivers, a transportation company simply doesn’t exist. So are there ways to combat the shortage?

There certainly are. Transportation companies can offer higher wages, dedicated routes, short hauls, and a number of other options—in fact, most transportation companies want to offer these—but unfortunately transportation revenue isn’t increasing at a pace that is rapid enough to allow any transportation company to offer these incentives. Revenue isn’t increasing because the increased costs most shippers are paying for transportation are being absorbed by rising fuel and equipment costs instead of contributing to increased driver wages.  This severely limits a transportation company in what they’re able to offer in order to attract a full staff of dedicated drivers.

Because it is difficult for a transportation provider to also raise rates in order to offer higher wages to drivers many carriers continue to find creative ways to combat against rising costs. For example, many carriers are working towards updating their fleet with fuel efficient trucks and onboarding systems that monitor and regulate driving behaviors or deviations from planned routes.

Ultimately, it’s important that shippers think of punitive costs. As transportation companies reach a point that all cost savings methods have been exhausted, and driver wages stagnate, driver performance could be impacted. If a truckload of product doesn’t make it to its destination on time because the transportation company is forced to overwork or overdrive its drivers, the costs to the shipper will be exponentially higher than paying a little more for premium service. 


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Topics: Shipping, Drivers, Transportation