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  • Writer's pictureBetter Truck Drivers for America

Truck Driver Shortage Is Making an Impact beyond 2022

What does Truck Driver shortage mean for our country, other drivers, and our economy? Good for some and bad for others.

Over the past few decades, the U.S. has experienced an ever-growing truck driver shortage. Between 2005 and 2018, the industry has seen the truck driver shortage increase 200 percent (from roughly 20,000 to 60,800).

That, combined with the effects of COVID-19 on shipping capacity, has really had an impact on freight shipping rates. Trucks were already having trouble keeping up with demand due to lack of drivers. Then, COVID-19 increased demand substantially for essential goods, which led to an even more limited supply of capacity to keep up. Lastly to pile this on the holiday shipping season is here! This is always a strain on everyone but what is causing the shortage now...

What’s Causing the Truck Driver Shortage?

There are several reasons for the driver shortage, but these are three of the most significant factors.

1. Health Concerns

Long-haul trucking can be physically demanding work and potentially requires long periods of sitting while behind the wheel. This can dictate a driver’s ability to eat healthy and be physically active. After all, it can be difficult to be intentional about healthy habits outside of drive time when you’re under tight deadlines.

Additionally, as the COVID-19 virus spreads through the U.S., many drivers are becoming wary of potential exposure and are understandably limiting their exposure outside of their truck.

2. Retirement

The general population of truck drivers is aging. In fact, the average age of commercial truck drivers today is 46 years old — about a half-decade older than the average age of workers in other industries.

Additionally, rampant misperceptions about the job have resulted in declining interest among younger people entering the job market. Tired stereotypes, such as that truck driving is an unhealthy, low-paying or dirty job, are simply not true.

In reality, drivers are professionals with plenty of opportunities for career growth, rapidly increasing earning potential, a high degree of independence and the freedom to see every corner of the country (while getting paid for it). Hear directly from our drivers about the opportunities that come with a career as a truck driver!

3. Reduced Interest in Long-Haul Projects

Luckily, many carriers are doing their best to offer drivers more flexibility with their over-the-road (OTR) schedules. For example, over the past several years, ATS has created options toget drivers home more often. And while many drivers prefer to be out for extended periods, many carriers recognize the importance of getting drivers home when they need or want to be home and take special measures to make it happen.

On June 1, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revised four provisions of the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations to provide greater flexibility for drivers without adversely affecting safety. On Sept. 29, 2020, motor carriers were required to comply with the new HOS regulations.

How Is the Truck Driver Shortage Impacting Capacity?

Market interruptions, including events like the pandemic, can often halt or dramatically affect shipping of non-essential goods, clogging ports and creating a massive shipping backlog up and down the supply chain (from raw materials shipping to customer deliveries).

As carriers rush to play catch-up, there’s an ever-increasing demand for trucks, which has led to a capacity shortage that’s further compounded by the truck driver shortage.

Furthermore, with seasonality in shipping, like retail at the end of the year, machinery in the spring, etc., consumer demand is putting even more pressure on companies to ship higher volumes, faster.

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