According to a 2019 American Trucking Associations (ATA) report, the industry has been experiencing a shortage of truck drivers for the past 15 years. That shortage was estimated to be about 20,000 back in 2005. Today, that shortage is estimated to be about 59,000 drivers. That shortage of drivers is currently centered around the long-haul, cross country, and industry segments. Truck drivers move 70 percent of America’s freight. With the rise of online shopping and just in time inventory and delivery strategies, that percentage is unlikely to fall significantly any time soon.
Competition between trucking companies for the limited supply of available qualified drivers has been so fierce at times that some companies actively poached drivers from each other. Indeed, that poaching even led to a court battle that yielded a $15.5 million judgment against one major trucking company. According to industry insiders, several factors drive the qualified driver shortage, a shortage that is likely to grow without robust driver recruitment. These factors include:
- An aging workforce approaching retirement
- Demand growing faster than supply
- Comparatively few women drivers
- Regulatory issues
- Work conditions
- Lifestyle concerns
- Other employment options at a similar wage
Driver Shortage Leading To Better Opportunities
This ongoing truck driver shortage makes industry leaders take a closer look at the day-to-day issues truck drivers face and consider how to resolve those issues. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes to increase this industry’s attractiveness, reducing driver turnover and driver loss. Many of the major trucking companies are working extra hard to attract and keep qualified drivers. That means that thousands of truck driving jobs are available and that trucking companies strive to make these jobs better opportunities overall.
Trucking Companies Increasing Pay
Truck driving, especially long-haul, can be a tough job. Some days are fraught with hassles and delays, including long waits for unloading, difficulty finding a place to park to sleep, and, of course, traffic. Weather, road construction, and road food add to the list. Add in lengthy periods away from home and family, and it’s no wonder that many cast their eyes on jobs with comparable wages that, though they come with their hassles, allow them to be home daily.
The industry has seen aggressive increases in pay and in signing bonuses in the past couple of years, with some of the big trucking companies planning further increases this year. Team drivers saw even more premium pay and bonus increases than solo drivers in many companies. With team driving, two drivers make up the team. When one completes their allotted drive time, the other takes over. Many couples do this successfully, eliminating one of the main long-haul trucking lifestyle drawbacks – too much time away from their significant other or spouse.
With this year’s new pay increases and bonuses, some Schneider National drivers are now being paid over $90,000 per year. This trend toward increasing pay is an essential part of relieving the industry’s shortage. There are some great opportunities out there for qualified drivers with clean driving records.
Working To Reduce Hassles
The trucking industry is working to improve some of the working conditions that hurt drivers’ productivity, reducing their driving time and thus their paychecks. One key area of delay is loading and unloading. Drivers often arrive at their destination and have to watch their allowable work hours tick away while waiting for their cargo to be unloaded. Companies are striving to reduce those wait times. Many companies are upgrading trucks and equipment to increase driver safety, comfort, and convenience.
Excellent Opportunities For Women
As noted by the ATA, despite being almost half of the workforce, just under 7 percent of truck drivers are women. Some companies have focused driver recruitment efforts on increasing their number of women drivers. In those companies, women make up about 20 percent of the workforce. The trucking industry as a whole welcomes women drivers, especially with shortages expected to continue to grow over the next decade. Right now is an excellent time for women thinking about the benefits of a career in the trucking industry to start taking steps to make it happen. There’s good money to be made.
Tackling Entry Barriers
Another aspect of the trucking industry that industry leaders are taking a close look at is the barrier to entry. Trucking driving school can be costly, which can be a real issue for people trying to break into this profession. Some companies offer CDL training, trucking driving school programs, and paid, on the job training programs. Other companies pay for CDL training or truck driving school and recoup it in small payments from future paychecks. Not only does this eliminate the cost barrier, but it also solves a common problem, new trucking school graduates often face – finding a job without driving experience.
Age is another entry barrier that trucking industry leaders are working to address. The legal minimum age for interstate truck driving is 21. Many industry leaders are backing legislation to change this. The Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE) Safe Act seeks to set up an apprenticeship type of program for drivers 18 to 21 years old, as explained by the ATA in its 2019 report. These programs would feature 400 hours of training, including 240 hours of supervised driving. The goal is to decrease the driver shortage while increasing the pool of highly trained, safety-conscious, and otherwise well-qualified drivers.
Now Is The Time
It’s a great time to get into the trucking industry. The increased demand for trucking services and the shortage of qualified drivers means thousands of jobs are waiting to be filled. The current focus of industry leaders on improving pay and working conditions means that these aren’t just jobs. They’re opportunities to build a career able to finance the American dream. Driver recruitment is on the upswing. Don’t miss a great opportunity.