The trucking industry has a problem. Not only is there a shortage of qualified drivers. But the age of the average truck driver is 52, which is ten years older than the average American worker. So what’s going to happen when these aging drivers retire? Will there be enough new drivers to replace them?
A Big Worry
According to Kevin Burch, the president of Jet Express Inc., the industry will need to add 100,000 new drivers per year for the next ten years to address the driver shortage. The American Trucking Association (ATA) agrees. In 2017, the organization reported a shortage of more than 50,000 drivers.
And in 2016, the ATA released a paper analyzing the issue of the aging driver population. The group found that since 2010 there’s been a steady increase in demand for freight services.
Their analysis confirmed that despite the increased demand, there is a shrinking replacement population of younger trucking industry workers.
Another problem is a federal regulation that bans 18- to 21-year-olds from driving Class 8 trucks across state lines. This rule prevents talented young drivers from getting started in the industry.
ATA President Chris Spear called the rule “one of the dumbest federal policies I have ever come across.”
Trucking companies can, however, still employ 18- to 21-year-olds for in-state driving. Developing new talent in this way is a crucial step in easing the driving shortage down the line as more and more current drivers retire.
Another way to get more new drivers into the industry is for trucking companies to do more targeted recruiting of women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 6% of truck drivers are female (compared to 53% of workers across all industries).
Clearly there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Ellen Voie, president of the Women in Trucking (WIT) advocacy group, points out that women in “non-traditional” occupations earn up to 30% more than they do in careers that traditionally have more female workers, like nursing and teaching.
During a speech in 2017, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao pointed out that turnover for female truck drivers tends to be lower, as they often enter the industry after raising their families. (Meanwhile, many male drivers who leave the industry cite a lack of home/family time as the reason why.)
It’s clear that trucking companies are going to have to get creative in their recruiting. And they’ll have to do it fast, because the rise of e-commerce means that the demand for freight services is only going to grow.
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