Driver Shortage: Where Will We Find New Drivers?
The transportation industry is one of the largest industries in the world. In 2012, the U.S. spent $1.33 trillion on logistics and transportation, accounting for a whopping 8.5% of the annual gross domestic product. Since 2012, the transportation industry has grown and is expected to continue.
But there’s a big problem – while the transportation industry grows, so does the driver shortage. According to the American Trucking Association, companies will need to hire 890,000 drivers over the next 10 years to replace retiring drivers and meet new demand. In addition, the trucking industry will need to solve the issues that are causing the shortage and find creative ways to attract new drivers.
One of the biggest factors causing a driver shortage is older truckers are “aging out” and retiring, while young drivers are not joining the industry at anywhere near the same rate. Twenty-somethings represent one of the largest population demographics in the country, but they are one of the smallest groups in the trucking industry. Attitudes towards career priorities have shifted from focusing on what will make the most money to what will bring the most life satisfaction. The life of a trucker isn’t always easy: spending a lot of time away from home with an unpredictable schedule can be difficult for drivers, especially those with families. A sedentary lifestyle with limited access to a balanced diet and exercise also makes drivers at higher risk for health issues. Other industries such as construction and manufacturing don’t have these same types of issues.
Another reason young workers aren’t entering the trucking industry is the gap between the time a potential trucker graduates high school to when they turn 21 and can legally drive trucks across state lines. Those who don’t attend college often attend trade school or take a job in a different industry in those years. Once they start on another path, the chances of something attracting them to trucking are much lower. This year, the American Trucking Association has suggested lowering the minimum driver age to 18 years old. They have faced pushback since the age requirement was intended to increase safety on the roads. To attract young drivers, trucking companies are focusing on training 18-21 year olds in-state, creating schedules that guarantee home time, making truck cabins more comfortable, and allowing drivers to bring their pets on the road.
Just attracting young drivers is not enough. The trucking industry needs new demographics to tap into. One demographic the trucking industry is targeting is women. Right now, just 5.8% of the 3.4 million U.S. truck drivers on the road are women. This number is up from only 4.6% in 2010. To incentivize women to become drivers, companies have implemented and prioritized many of the same changes they are implementing to attract young people. Additionally they have been working on making terminals cleaner, making truck stops safer and more female friendly, and making trucks with automatic transmissions and hydraulic hood lifting mechanisms. Several trucking companies have launched recruiting campaigns directed specifically at women.
Veterans are also a target demographic for recruiting new drivers. Several trucking companies have created initiatives to train and hire veterans and their families. The results have been more successful than anticipated. This year trucking schools will be receiving $2.3 million in grants from the Transportation Department to train military veterans.
Although steps are being taken to allieviate the driver shortage, current capacity is still tight. Partnering with a broker that can tap into hidden capacity can help. Look for a 3PL that can find you capacity when and where you need it.