What’s Causing the Truck Driver Shortage?

Fleet Fuel ManagementLook up news stories on the trucking industry, and you’re likely to find a lot of coverage of the nationwide driver shortage.

According to the American Trucking Association, the industry had a shortage of 38,000 drivers in 2014, a number that was expected to jump to nearly 48,000 by the end of 2015. The average age of the American truck driver is 49, which means the industry expects to see a significant number of retirements in the next 10 years.

Combine that with a growing demand for consumer goods and a struggle to find qualified candidates and you have an industry that needs more drivers than it has. Over the next decade, the ATA estimates trucking companies will need to hire an average of 89,000 drivers a year.

Tomorrow’s Truckers Could Be Much Younger

In order to combat the problem of drivers getting older, the industry is looking at hiring drivers who are younger.

The ATA lobbied Congress earlier this year in support of legislation that would start a pilot program allowing drivers as young as 18 to take trucks and buses across state lines. In many states, the minimum driving age for truckers is 21.

And in some cases, that rule makes no sense, ATA Vice President for Public Safety Rob Abbott told the Wall Street Journal in October.

“Drivers today can drive from San Francisco to San Diego, but can’t cross the street in Texarkana,” a city on the Texas-Arkansas border, Abbott said. “That’s an imaginary boundary. That’s illogical.”

The Journal also spoke to a veteran, third-generation trucker who said his sons have chosen not to continue the family tradition. The three-year gap between the time they become adults and the time they can drive trucks across state-lines was too long to wait, so they looked for employment elsewhere.

Opponents of the legislation have raised safety concerns, but ATA spokesman Sean McNally told Politico that the change won’t mean “teenagers crossing the country willy-nilly.”

He argued that the program will help new drivers be safer. “There’s no upside to our industry to do things that are unsafe,” said McNally.

Fewer Drivers, Higher Pay

The driver shortage is also driving up salaries for truckers. The average pay for long-haul truckers rose to $57,000 this year, a 17 percent increase since the end of 2013. As Fortune noted, truckers are also getting $5,000 signing bonuses and “amenities such as satellite televisions to make life a bit more comfortable when they’re on the road.”

 “As the unemployment rate declines and other options are created, this career path looks less and less desirable,” Fortune’s Michael Addady wrote. “Trucking fleets are left fighting for the same workers, forcing them to hike paychecks and sweeten the deal with some perks.”

The ATA is also proposing some other solutions to deal with the shortage of drivers:

  • Offering more time at home
  • Improving driver images
  • Reaching out to veterans, many of whom are younger people who gained trucking experience during their military careers.
  • Lobbying for better treatment of drivers by companies in the supply chain
  • Utilizing autonomous commercial trucks, a technology that’s being developed by a number of truck makers.

But ATA economist Bob Costello, speaking to the Huffington Post in November, cautioned against the industry relying too heavily on driverless trucks.

{{cta(‘4e9ac2e7-7348-4349-998b-0a10e0dd24a4′,’justifyright’)}} “Chances are, if you are a company waiting around for driverless trucks, and not focusing on getting more drivers, and paying them more and making them happy, you’re going to be out of business,” Costello said.

There’s no single cause for the nation’s truck driver shortage, and there’s not just one solution. But as a fleet manager, you’re used to juggling multiple problems. Sokolis Group can help you grapple with one of those problems: saving money on fuel costs.

Since 2003 we’ve helped our clients save close to half a billion dollars on fueling. We can help you negotiate on fuel purchases, audit your fuel programs, and collect, analyze and report on data collected from multiple vendors.

Sokolis Group can also help by evaluating your company to see if mobile fueling is right for you. Mobile fueling can save your drivers time, giving them more time to make deliveries. And because many companies need to adhere to hours-of-service regulations, it’s important that drivers can make the most of the time they have available.

It’s your job to recruit new drivers. We’ll help you save money on fueling their trucks.

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