According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA) our industry currently needs another 30,000 qualified drivers. The number is expected to rise to 200,000, over the next 10 years. Drivers are getting old. The average age for -hire is about 49; about 55 for less-than-truckload drivers (LTL) and private carriers. Average turnover rate is 115-120%.
Hauling more than 70% of all freight in the US, trucking is a vital component to economic growth of the country. But there is not enough capacity to handle the anticipated growth. The result is that everything slows down.
Being away from home for long stretches is a major drawback to attracting recruits to drive trucks. The age requirement, restrictive regulations and demanding work schedules are further deterrents.
Des Moines Truck Brokers (DMTB) President Jimmy DeMatteis pointed out that “The driver pool is being pinched from both ends. Baby boomer drivers are retiring. But we have also lost young people who elected to go into the work force right out of high school. They used to be allowed to drive interstate at the age of 18. Now that age has been raised to 21.
“By the time they are in the labor market for three years, young adults can be well on their way to a career in construction, retail or service. They are not interested in starting all over again from the bottom as a brand new truck driver. Raising the age limit has been a major blow to driver recruitment.”
There is a move afoot to convince insurance companies to create training standards that would allow young drivers behind the wheel. DeMatteis notes, “At the age of 18, they are allowed to go into combat and fly a plane and drive a car. With the proper training, they should also be able to drive a truck.”
Driver pay must be increased if the capacity shortage is to be addressed. In real dollars, drivers today earn less than they made in 1990.
Solving the driver shortage will undoubtedly cause an increase in the cost of shipping. It will also take innovation and a dose of reality as shippers and carriers face the problem head-on, in 2015.
Reprinted with permission from the 2015 February issue of Dashboard, which is published by Des Moines Truck Brokers.