If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that there’s a driver shortage issue taking place in the trucking industry. And it has been a pressing issue for some time now…
Basically, demand is exceeding supply. More and more people want things delivered via truck, but there simply aren’t enough truckers to drive stuff to-and-from places. The result is this: deliveries sitting on docks or arriving late. As of this month, according to the American Trucking Association, there’s a shortage of about 51,000 truck drivers across the USA. And that number is expected to increase– not decrease– in the coming years.
Not since 1984, when deregulation happened, have things been so bad. Trucking companies are faced with a lack of drivers thanks to old timers retiring but not being replaced by enough newbies who can meet new hours of service rules and regulations.
Especially causing problems are Electronic Logging Devices, aka ELDs. By December of 2019, all carriers and drivers must have them and use them. ELDs look like small computers and replace the traditional paper logs drivers have used for years. ELDs aren’t appreciated by a lot of truckers because they’re too precise– permanently tracking a driver’s time, rest periods and location… such that it’s like “Big Brother” always keeping tabs, in a corporate, cold sort-of-way. What are truckers now? Just cogs in the machine?
Truckers also have to deal with the federal mandate limiting the amount of time behind the wheel to 11 hours during a 14-hour day. After 11 hours, they must take 10 hours off. While this is supposed to be in the name of safety, a lot of drivers are frustrated that they can’t work as much as they’d like… their hours have essentially been cut, so they’re not driving as many miles and they’re not making as much money as they used to make.
Finally, the trucking industry is having a hard time attracting new recruits who frankly don’t want to work the kind of long hours away from home required of the job. Does someone in their 20s want to be away from home for a week or two at a time? Unless they’re single and don’t care about having a social life, the answer is pretty much “No.”
What can the trucking industry do to attract and keep new recruits? Offer better pay, better trucks, and better benefits, including full health care. Oh, and offer shorter and more predictable routes. We shall see how this all plays out in the years to come.