According to an article in The Washington Post, the nation is currently dealing with a major truck driver shortage. It’s estimated that about 50,000 truckers are needed to meet demands for transportation and shipping. The retail industry is feeling the strain: many retailers have had to delay certain shipments and are paying higher costs for shipping.
About 70% of goods consumed in the U.S. are moved by truck, so there’s a definite need for truckers. Such a need, in fact, that many trucking businesses are offering raises and signing bonuses to attract potential employees.
So, with higher wages, the potential for bonuses, and available work, why is there such a shortage of truckers in the United States?
There aren’t enough young people entering the trucking workforce to replace those who are retiring.
First of all, the current workforce in the trucking industry is aging. According to an article from NPR, the Bureau of Labor estimates that the average age for truck drivers is 55. These drivers are going to retire, and the worry is that there will not be enough new drivers to replace them. Millennials are typically not interested in trucking due to the constraints and the demands of the job. Long hours on the road with few creature comforts and long stretches of time away from family and friends are not attractive to the younger generations.
There are also fewer qualified drivers out there, so it’s difficult for trucking businesses to hire people with the skills and experience they’re looking for. Again, this issue is compounded by the fact that not many young people are interested in trucking due to the lifestyle. Therefore, not many young people have the motivation or the interest in getting the needed training and education to become a trucker. Millennials place great value on work-life balance, and unfortunately, that’s something trucking does not lend itself to.
Only 6% of truck drivers are women.
Another factor in the truck driver shortage is the fact that not many commercial truck drivers are women. In fact, it’s estimated that only 6% of drivers are women. If trucking businesses could employ more women drivers, they could make a difference in the shortage. However, despite the efforts that some companies make to hire more female drivers by offering things like guaranteed time at home, it’s difficult. Women tend to want to avoid risk more than men do. With the dangers of being alone on the road and the inherent dangers of driving itself, getting more female truckers may be easier said than done.
The economy has picked up, making the truck driver shortage more noticeable.
Another reason the truck driver shortage is becoming such an issue is that it’s more noticeable now than it has been in recent years. The trucking industry has been suffering from a shortage of employees for about 15 years now. So why only recently has so much attention been drawn to the issue? When the Great Recession happened about ten years ago (around 2008) there was less demand for trucks and transportation because people weren’t buying as many goods. Less freight meant that fewer drivers were needed. And then in 2011, the economy picked up again and people started buying more. So, the need for trucks went back up…and so did the need for truckers. Except, once again, there weren’t enough truckers to fill that demand.
The effect of the shortage on retailers and consumers.
It’s clear that truck businesses have been feeling the pressure of a workforce that’s too small to fit their needs. Retailers have been feeling the effects, too. But what about consumers? The truck driver shortage has been affecting them, too. One example can be seen in retail giant Amazon. The company has increased the price of a membership to its Prime program, which includes free two-day shipping, to $119 a year, which is a $20 increase over its previous price of $99 a year. The company has said that increased shipping costs and transportation costs have contributed to the price increase.
What the future holds.
As of yet, it’s unclear if there’s a “perfect path” to solving the problem. Some have suggested hiring more women, some have suggested targeting millennials. What is clear, though, is that the demand for truckers is not going to go away. The ATA (American Trucking Association) estimates that there will be a need for almost 900,000 truckers in the next decade. Without enough truckers to fill the demand, the effects of the driver shortage will continue to be felt across the retail sector, and consumers will feel the brunt as well.
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