Carriers Lack More Than 80,000 Drivers
As the volume of freight traffic grows, the need for more workers increases.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many truck drivers have retired. New drivers appear slowly because of problems with training and obtaining commercial driver licenses.
“We will be short roughly 80,000, just over 80,000 drivers, and to be clear that is the difference between the number of drivers we have out hauling freight and the number that we ideally need to haul freight,” American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello said.
Costello said the driver shortage improved in 2019 as the industry attracted more drivers and freight levels remained stable. However, with the current freight demand, the need has jumped by 30% over 2020 levels.
The latest data about driver shortages came when problems with the national supply chain caught the attention of the White House and industry representatives across the country.
Last week President Joe Biden met with a wide variety of transportation and supply chain representatives. Two of the busiest ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach, would soon begin 24/7 operations. However, industry experts said one of the challenges they will face by expanding hours will be finding enough truck drivers.
“This is somewhat pandemic-related; we didn’t train enough drivers,” Costello said. “It’s the traditional things we’ve been talking about for the last two decades.
Also Costello noticed that one area of trucking that has a more significant problem attracting drivers is the long-haul sector. Still, he said more companies realize the challenges of recruiting drivers who haul freight more than 400 miles per day. In some cases, those companies are modifying schedules to reduce the long distances some drivers cover regularly.
Lack of drivers is a supply and demand issue. Many companies have been regularly raising drivers’ salaries for more than two years now.
“We are paying drivers more, and if you look at government data, over the last 2½ years, the average weekly earnings in the longhaul truck market for drivers, the rate is going up at five times the historical average since the year 2000,” he said.
According to ATA, if nothing is done, the industry deficit will increase to 160,000 drivers by 2030.