The Driver Shortage Just Keeps Getting Worse

By February 4, 2015Drivers, NationaLease

A recent Heavy Duty Trucking article goes into great detail to identify the problems behind the ongoing and worsening truck driver shortage.

I recently was asked by Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT) to comment on the alarming shortage of drivers and diesel technicians plaguing the transportation industry. There are a number of factors contributing to an issue that has always troubled the industry. But now, it’s getting worse than ever. Based on estimates by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the industry is currently short by about 35,000 and will need an additional 240,000 drivers by the year 2020. We’ve published a number of blogs and articles over the past couple of years dealing with this problem, but I think this HDT article, “Driver Dilemma: In Search of Drivers,” digs deep into the issue and finds a number of causes that are behind this ever-present dilemma.

Demographics – One of the main places to look is demographics. The fact is that Baby Boomers, the generation that swore it would never get old is, in fact, getting old and getting ready to retire, if they haven’t already done so. Meanwhile, the median age for truck drivers has continued to rise, according to a paper released by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). While the average age for the overall workforce is 42.4 years, for truck drivers that number jumps to 46.5 years. And, most alarming, private carrier drivers are even older…with a median age of 52 years old!

Competing with other businesses – The article cites a list of occupations with the most job growth projected between 2013 to 2022 and, surprisingly, truck drivers aren’t at the top although they do make the list. Jobs in construction, home health care, nursing, and software developers all place higher on the list than truck drivers, and for many of these positions, they are going after the same worker pool. Wages are comparable to truck driving in a number of these areas, and to millennials, they probably sound more appealing.

Regulation – Companies would love to hire qualified, reliable, serious high school graduates to drive for them; however, that’s nearly impossible with a federal regulation that states that an interstate commercial driver’s license holder must be at least 21 years of age. By that age, these graduates have already moved on to other occupations. Other regulations that are impeding the growth in hires are the Hours of Service mandate, the ELD (electronic logging device) rule, and new speed restrictions.

Pay – The American Trucking Associations released data showing that the median pay for drivers had parity with the median pay for all U. S. households, so drivers aren’t being underpaid. However, companies that pay exceedingly well are having the same problems recruiting drivers as those that are paying significantly less. And when it comes to retention, pay is never the number one reason drivers give for leaving.

Engagement – Workers that feel that they’re a part of something larger than themselves; that they have a vested interest in seeing the company succeed tend to be more stable, long-term employees. That’s hard to do when the job entails long hours driving on the road and days away from family and friends.

Making the job of driving a truck appealing to a younger generation is proving to be a challenge for fleets all over the country. Indeed, as we found out when we researched Europe’s situation, this is a problem that exists far beyond our borders. The biggest challenge to fleets for the foreseeable future is attracting new workers in a highly competitive atmosphere.

Read the full article here.

Jane Clark

About Jane Clark

Jane Clark is Vice President of Member Services for NationaLease. Before joining the full service truck leasing organization, she served in executive positions with some of the nation’s top staffing and recruitment agencies.

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