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Home » Truck Driver Shortage in America
February 16, 2023

Truck Driver Shortage in America

Trailers awaiting pickup. 

Truck Driver Shortage in America

According to an estimate from the American Trucking Association, the US is experiencing a shortage of 80,000 drivers, while Canada is short 25,000 drivers. These numbers tell only a small part of the story.

The shortage of drivers doesn’t come from a lack of skilled and qualified drivers. In fact, according to some estimates, there are millions who hold the required CDL but opt for work in other areas of logistics, or other careers altogether.

When considering the age demographics of truck drivers, 23% are over age 55, 57% are over the age of 45, while only 20% of drivers are under that of 45. This is shaping up to be driver shortage of epic proportions.

When you consider that 72% of US freight is moved by trucks it’s clear that consumers and the economy are dependent on truck drivers. From fuel to food to furniture, truck drivers are moving freight.

The Covid Factor

When the pandemic struck in 2020, the world was filled with uncertainty. There was an unprecedented change in every conceivable market, and truck driving was no exception. I was on the road during the early days of Covid-19 and it was a different world. The roads were often empty except for other trucks. Our access to usual services became limited. Drivers were viewed as a risk to the safety of others. There were slowdowns in the supply chain, unlike anything we had seen before. And drivers left the transportation field.

The domino effect of supply chain issues exacerbated the driver shortage. Without drivers, freight moved slower, materials weren’t delivered, products weren’t created. As we resume our (relatively) normal lives, the demand for consumer products has surged, but the available resources have not kept up.

The lingering effects of the pandemic and the increased driver shortage continues to impact the flow of supplies and resources causing a slower return to pre-pandemic market levels. And there’s no light at the end of the tunnel for the driver shortage. It was recently reported that before the pandemic struck, drivers waited an average of 2.5 hours at warehouses. Thanks to the increased demand and the shortage of drivers – and employees everywhere – the detention times have increased. With detention time unpaid for most drivers, it is a world becoming less desirable with each passing day.

What Today’s Drivers Want

The needs and wants of today’s employees have seen a significant shift in recent years, and potential truck drivers are no exception. While there are definite benefits and advantages to being a truck driver, today’s drivers want two key benefits: home time and good pay.

There has been a slight uptick in the number of local drivers as companies respond to the desires for home, but the pay hasn’t grown. Many long-time drivers lament that they earn the same today as they did, 10, 20, even 40 years ago. Companies that accept cheap freight and pay their drivers the minimum are negatively impacting the markets by driving down the cost of loads and reducing the available profit margins.

Truck drivers were once respected blue-collar workers. Today, they make their way across the country with their necks on a swivel as they work to avoid increased risks including the cars that don’t respect the need for space. Car drivers are generally impatient and look to take advantage of any possible space, leaving truck drivers less room to safely stop.

In a Washington Post article, when asked about the driver shortage one driver said, “There’s a lot of wasted time in trucking. The industry could be a lot more efficient. You end up sitting outside a business for six or eight hours waiting for someone to unload your truck. Businesses don’t care, but you are losing hundreds or thousands of dollars of potential pay because you have to just wait.”

Another said, “people don’t respect truck drivers. We are treated as the bad guys on the road by other drivers,” while another said, “Companies don’t treat you like a human. You are a just a machine that makes money for them.”

Drivers are looking for the same things as other potential employees: respect and dignity, time at home with family and friends, and fair compensation. Trucking companies can’t provide this by themselves. To stem the tide of drivers exiting the industry, the entire network of transportation logistics needs an ideological shift towards respect. Respect our time. Respect our families. Respect our work. Pay drivers accordingly in a way that shows that we are appreciated and respected for our sacrifices on the highways.

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