Trucker shortage now at historic highs

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The American Trucking Associations says that by the end of this year, the truck driver shortage will hit a historic high of just over 80,000 drivers.

The ATA estimate is the difference between the number of drivers now working and the optimal number of drivers based on freight demand.

The need for long-haul drivers is the most acute, said the group, which cites the causes as many:

The average age of current drivers is causing a lot of retirements, and the field is heavily dominated by men, so the number of available workers is reduced. Also, some would-be drivers cannot pass a drug test, exacerbated by the growing number of states that have legalized marijuana, while it is still a federally banned substance.

Also, the Covid pandemic has caused some drivers to leave the field, at the same time truck driver training schools are training far fewer drivers than they did in 2020.

The group also cited a problem with having 21 as the federally mandated minimum age for truckers to drive commercially across state lines. Things like criminal records or poor driving records also contribute.

The ATA says that by 2030, there could be a need for more than 160,000 more drivers, if this trend continues.

“This forecast is based on driver demographic trends, including gender and age, as well as expected freight growth. As part of this study, ATA estimates that over the next decade, the industry will have to recruit nearly 1,000,000 new drivers into the industry to replace retiring drivers, drivers that leave voluntarily (e.g., lifestyle) or involuntarily (e.g., driving records or failed drug test), as well as additional drivers needed for industry growth,” the group announced.

The trends do not account for the impact of potential laws that may either alter the industry dynamics positively (e.g., lower the minimum age to drive across state lines) or negatively (e.g. regulatory mandates that push drivers to exit the industry or be less efficient), ATA wrote.

Recently, driver pay and earnings have gone up significantly, for a career that was already a path to the middle class for Americans without a college degree. Indeed.com says the average pay for a trucker in Alaska is $64,436. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that most dump truck drivers earn a median salary of $34,000 per year.

The Department of Labor says the average earnings of production and non-supervisory employees, with the vast majority of those being driver occupations in the long-haul for-hire truckload industry, is increasing roughly five times the historical average.

“While this is good for drivers and those looking to enter this occupation, rising pay rates alone will not solve the driver shortage because some drivers will choose to work less at a higher pay rate, negating the impact of the increase. The solution to the driver shortage will most certainly require increased pay, regulatory changes and modifications to shippers’, receivers’ and carriers’ business practices to improve conditions for drivers,” according to ATA.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Where are you at? Well past the end of the supply line? Cry out to God. Public “servants” have their earphones in.

  2. Elections have consequences. In my work, many choose to retire rather than suffer the Obama era rewrite of many regulations that pushed them and their trucks off the road. Between EPA and DOT they are killing production. But it feels so good to think that electric trucks powered by fantasy will make our economy magic.

  3. Life at the “end if the road” becomes ever more fun! Our grocery chain tells us they have a three day stock, it’s how we live in the era of “on-time- delivery” replacing the warehouse of old. And we see it regularly: a truck shows up with a refrigeration failure, and the shelves that held lettuce are empty.
    Of course, throughout the pandemic it has been hard for the harried shopper to tell if it is a lack of stock, or a lack of stockers, either = empty shelves.
    Yes, I’ve looked up what it takes to have a Mormon pantry. Brilliant idea, but . . . Yikes, it requires work to build the pantry, organization, planning, and hey, I’ve got a life ya know!
    What to do? Do those supporting undocumented immigration really think they have the answer?
    Marching, marching, marching by the thousands, pouring through the jungle, pouring past uniformed Mexican police like Chinese soldiers pouring into a North Korean battlefield. Migrants heading north to the promised land.
    If migrants don’t need a paper Visa. Don’t follow any rules to get here. With a chance to make more in an hour than their previous pastoral lifestyle let them earn in a week. Why should they bother with licenses to drive an 18-wheeler? Even if they can’t cross the Canadian border, will undocumented immigrants fill the void of unfilled workers? Will the administration allow employers to find a way around the rules enacted by Congress?
    It is an amazing, highly selective, perhaps Darwinian process. Migrants put forward the personal effort to wade the swamps in South or Central America, they take the risks, and in so doing see their future as something they control, not government. Will these few enough break through reap the rewards granted those who work hard in this country? Will they be able to produce enough to provide the tax base need to support those who have chosen to sit, waiting for a meagre government check?
    Or will the administration re-think its border policies if they discover the migrants now encouraged by open border policies; migrants who can purchase fake social security papers on the street, as the Calif Sen state president explained. . . what if these hard working, migrants, many of whom come into communities and advance economically, leaving behind an underclass of Americans. What if these migrants fail to fall in line with the open-border, socialist, “take from the producers the value they create and redistribute it to the consumer” left wing partisan? What if they begin to vote conservative values? How long will the borders remain open?
    Interesting times!
    Meanwhile, I thing I might add a large bag of rice, and another of beans to our pantry? Maybe even cracked corn, a tasty item when parched!

    • Three day stock is standard for common items to run out. Pickled Okra will still be on the shelf. Remember that ‘outdate’ is ‘best by date’. In the 1980s we ate C-rations from the Korean War. It is an interesting time to be alive.

  4. Small town USA started pulling up railroad tracks in the 70’s and 80’s. It was a foolish move considering where we are.
    Family is presently on the road and for every car there were 3 trucks on I-90.

    • It wasn’t small town USA, it was government driven regulatory consolidation of railroads bankrupted by mismanagement and overregulation. Remember the Pennsylvania RR, New York Central RR, Penn Central, then Conrail, when the government tried to micromanage it? About as efficient as AMTRAK. I personally watched a Penn Central wreck on unmaintained track. Big money greed mismanagement coupled with overregulation killed the small town railroad. Or maybe its time just passed.

  5. Small town USA should have never pulled up the rail road tracks in the 70’s and 80’s.
    It was very short sighted.

    • The small towns didn’t do it. The government subsidized the interstate and state road systems. The politicians that received monies from the trucking interests passed legislation that helped the trucking industry and allowed the Railroad infrastructure to deteriorate.

  6. “……..Also, some would-be drivers cannot pass a drug test, exacerbated by the growing number of states that have legalized marijuana, while it is still a federally banned substance……..”
    With pot stores popping up everywhere like dandilions, I thought it appropriate to quote this for double reflection. It’s pretty tough to maintain a functioning society with the lawyer class creating utopia with such requirements as commercial drivers licensing and a demoralized and disappearing blue collar class becoming homeless drug addicts. I guess the lawyers will just have to depend on the drug cartels and their slaves to deliverthem their martini ingredients.

  7. Add.. requiring mask & vax for many driving jobs now.

    I personally sought out a job that did not, would not, require mask or vax.

    Biden’s federal requirement will only add to this problem.

    Also, we need more options of where to off load. California requires only trucks of a certain age. They are wanting to force electric trucks into existence.

    Don’t even get me started….

    I’d be open to all sorts of driving jobs, along as no mask or vax required.

  8. What is missing in the article and information by the complicit trucking associations is the absurd amount of regulations drivers are having to deal with, especially hours of service rules and the “ELD” electronic logs. The ELD scam is an absolute safety nightmare which causes drivers to drive when they are tired at times.
    The government has no trouble creating more jobs for Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officers who go along with what ever nonsense the politicians deal out regarding commercial vehicle drivers and the trucking industry. Alaska is just as guilty as the rest of the nation with its badge heavy tactics and harassment of truck drivers handed down by some of its Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officers.
    Regardless of who the governor is, no one cares.

    • As I drive across the country on a long promised trip to my wife , I have a new appreciation and respect for long haul truckers, who drive day and night, through bad weather .seven days per week finding their way from state to state via a complicated system of interstate highways. They might not dress like professionals but they are . I do not have a solution but I can say for sure that the government is not the answer.

    • I use an ELD for some of my driving. I’m curious as to how it “…causes drivers to drive when tired…”

      • When the truck rolls, like from a parking space to a diner, the ELD starts. It then times hours until the truck times out whether the truck is on the road or parked. The driver is committed to the wheel no matter how he feels. A nap runs out his driving time and the ELD becomes the master.

        • That’s not how my EDL works. When the vehicle is parked I’m either on duty not driving or off duty. Granted I have to manually enter off duty but there’s no constant clock burning through my available hours if I want to rest.

          • I cannot refute you as it has been many years since I dealt with logging, and hope never to again. In the early loggers once started the clock ran through, so a driver parked far out in the lot had his clock start if he pulled in for breakfast, as memory serves, and when he approached the daily limit there the truck stopped rather than have a violation, as memory serves. The point being more regulation did not necessarily improve safety, while increasing bureaucracy and cost. I am told that now there is continuous remote GPS/ELD for corporate drivers.

  9. We do have an influx of folks across our southern border and I’m sure plenty of them will sign up to drive a truck. All is not lost.

  10. The ATA only reptesents the industry stake holders. They DO NOT represent the independents. There is no driver shortage and there never was. The problem is the volume. With the transition to online buying, Amazon among others have completely overwhelmed the transportation system. The mega carriers treat their drivers like crap and pay pennies on the dollar. Gov regulation, lobbied by the ATA, is intentionally crushing the independants. Some states wont allow you to run a truck thats more than 10 years old. Some no older than 2015. There is no shortage, just regular people who refuse to be taken advantage of by the mega corporations. The Cannabis legalization bit is simply not true. To blame legalization for the shortage is nothing more than redirection from the true issue, which once again is big gov and mega corporations

  11. What missing is a bunch of ungrateful spoiled —— in this country need to go without lights and groceries from thanksgiving until may. then we can have a new discussion

  12. That’s the problem with Alaska now… all these people moving up to the last frontier then complaining because they don’t have fresh lettuce. Or their Costco order can’t make it to their “homestead” because the ferry isn’t running.

    • Well said- but all that said we need to become vastly less dependent on the lower 48. If we have ANY money subsidizing ANYthing, in this state it should be Ag and critical infrastructure, etc etc however we can better make Alaska potentially completely independent from the lower 48…we may not get all the way there, but the less we can depend on DC the better for Alaskans.

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