A shortage of truck drivers is a big part of the country’s supply chain problems.
The trucking industry is short 80,000 drivers, an all-time high for the industry, according to the American Trucking Associations. The shortage, which existed pre-pandemic but has grown worse since then, comes at a critical time in the retail supply chain cycle, with U.S. ports backlogged just before the start of the holiday shopping season. Truck drivers move 71% of the US economy's goods,.
“Since we last released an estimate of the shortage, there has been tremendous pressure on the driver pool,” said Bob Costello, chief economist, ATA. “Increased demand for freight, pandemic-related challenges from early retirements, closed driving schools and DMVs, and other pressures are really pushing up demand for drives and subsequently the shortage.”
The outlook for the next few years doesn’t offer much hope. Based on driver demographic trends, including gender and age, as well as expected freight growth the shortage could surpass 160,000 in 2030.
“A thing to note about the shortage is that before the pandemic, we were adding drivers to the industry – even though we had a shortage, more people were entering the industry,” Costello said. “The issue is that new entrants into the industry didn’t keep up with demand for goods.”
In order to keep up with demand over the next decade, trucking will need recruit nearly one million new drivers in order to close the gap caused by demand for freight, projected retirements and other issues, according to the ATA.
“Because are a number of factors driving the shortage, we have to take a number of different approaches,” Costello said. “The industry is raising pay at five times the historic average, but this isn’t just a pay issue. We have an aging workforce, a workforce that is overwhelmingly male and finding ways to address those issues is key to narrowing the shortage.
“Companies are doing more and more to address some of the structural lifestyle issues that have traditionally been a challenge for truck drivers,” he said. “So by finding ways to let younger people enter the industry like the Drive-SAFE Act, reaching out to women and minorities, will open this career path – one of the few with a path to a middle-class lifestyle that doesn’t require a college degree – we can put a significant dent in the shortage.”
The American Trucking Association is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. Through a federation of 50 affiliated state trucking associations and industry-related conferences and councils, ATA is the voice of the industry.