We’ve published a number of blogs about driver shortages over the past couple of years, including one this past summer.
The harsh reality is that the current trucker population is aging…fast. According to Bob Costello, Chief Economist for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), his analysis of the more than 700,000 tractor-trailer drivers showed that 47% were over the age of 50! What’s worse is that there aren’t enough younger drivers coming into the industry to replace them. The ATA estimates that the industry needs, on average, 100,000 new drivers each year for the next decade. Barring that, the truck driver shortage is expected to surge to 239,000 by 2022. Pretty frightening statistic for carriers, especially over-the-road carriers that constantly deal with this issue!
That’s why I found this Transport Topics article, Senior Drivers Staying Behind the Wheel, so interesting. The story, which appeared in the November 3 edition, gives the details on a number of drivers who are working well past normal retirement age. Most of the drivers interviewed in the article decided that retirement just wasn’t for them, so they continued driving…and their companies were delighted to have them. If you think that this is only a small to medium-size business practice, one of the drivers, Tom Camp, 74, is the senior-most safe driver for UPS, Inc. and has been driving for them for more than 52 years. And FedEx has a separate unit, FedEx Custom Critical, in Green Ohio, where Terry O’Connell, 72, works as a field safety liaison to help other drivers do their jobs safely and efficiently.
One of the truckers, Al Weddle, is 83 and continues to drive, having logged in more than 5.8 million miles over his driving career. As he says in the article, “I don’t have anything else to do other than about six months of working around the house and yard or working on my old cars.” In fact, for most of the drivers that were interviewed, boredom or the fear of boredom is what keeps them in their seats and on the road. For others, it’s the reality that living on Social Security is not so easy.
For employers, as I said earlier, having these experienced drivers on the job for a longer period of time gives some needed relief. Older drivers are more patient, more careful, and often, more dedicated than their younger counterparts. They’re also very safe drivers, having a deep understanding of all the hazards that can occur on the road.
When it comes to age-related concerns, truck drivers, regardless of age, still have to pass the standard DOT physical. The carriers these drivers work for understand the potential liabilities they might face in the case of an accident; consequently, they would not let a driver behind the wheel unless they had total confidence in him or her. But this is only a short-term answer. All of these drivers will eventually have to retire and when they do, our industry is faced with the same problem as before. The answer has yet to be found.
What is your company’s attitude regarding senior drivers? Let us know.