There’s a critical shortage of truck drivers in the U.S. right now, impacting our ability to get freight into distribution and deliver product to customers. From all reports, it’s only going to get worse.
The industry reports 63,0001 open truck driver positions this year, a number expected to more than double in coming years, and this could have wide-ranging impacts on the U.S. economy.
The shortage is causing everything from delayed Amazon orders to more expensive groceries, and is disproportionately impacting the foodservice distribution industry. Already, businesses including General Mills and Tyson Foods are raising prices as they pass higher transportation costs along to consumers.
Why is it so difficult to find drivers? Trucking remains one of the most dangerous professions in the country, nearly eight times as deadly as being a law enforcement officer2. Turnover in the trucking industry has skyrocketed to 94% 3. Relatively low pay, lack of young applicants, increased worker’s compensation costs, and new government regulations are additional factors impacting the shortage.
While the country’s official jobs number report has been cause for cheer the last few cycles, truck drivers are a different matter because of how crucial freight is to the U.S. economy. The truck driver shortage represents one of the most worrisome constraints on U.S. economic growth at the moment.
We need new approaches to attract drivers to the industry, beyond increased pay for drivers. A few ideas include: improved work conditions, enhanced methods of loading trucks to ease delivery, increased order size to allow fewer stops per truck, partnership with customers to assist in the delivery process, overnight deliveries in metropolitan areas to reduce traffic and other delays, mechanical aids to ease the process, and improved safety without over-regulation.
We can also ask Congress to support the DRIVE-Safe Act, a bipartisan bill introduced this year to create a pathway to qualify more drivers for the trucking profession and to instill a culture of safety.
Additionally, we must look at new opportunities, and focus on current trends: the rise of mobile technology and what roles it will play in the supply chain; the speed of delivery, as customers continue to compress wait times for their goods to travel from order to delivery; and access to more data in order to generate more efficiencies to determine where the customer wants to go.
The trucking industry is unique because it’s the lifeblood of moving goods around the country, representing 70% 4 of the nation’s freight volume by weight. Without enough trucks and drivers on the road, two things will happen: shipments will be delayed, and producers will have to pay higher prices to get goods to market. If we don’t address these challenges today, the success of our industry will be threatened for years to come.
Sources: IFDA News, Washington Post, Business Insider, CNBC.com, CBSNews.com, DCVelocity.com, ThePacker.com, WSJ.com, Informa
1: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/americas-severe-trucker-shortage-could-undermine-the-prosperous-economy/2018/06/28/61c19e12-7595-11e8-b4b7-308400242c2e_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0b5fe467303b 2:
4: Truck Transportation Employment/US Bureau of Labor Statistics/Conor Sen @conorsenMore stories by Conor Sen