According to American Trucking Association (ATA) estimates, there is a shortage of 35,000 truck drivers, and a need for nearly 240,000 additional drivers by 2020. In an attempt to fight this driver shortage, many trucking companies have been increasing driver wages and thus have had to raise their line haul rates, in some cases to double digit amounts. In January 2015 alone, the Cass Truckload Linehaul Index rose 7.9% compared to the same period last year.
However, many industry experts claim the increases in driver wages can only go so far in solving the problem. John Larkin, transportation analyst for Stifel Nicolaus, says, “We’ve tried bonuses … we’ve set up driver training schools, we’ve tried to get people home more regularly, we’ve bought bigger nicer trucks, and still the problem gets worse and worse.” The main challenge to overcome is the fact that most people just don’t view truck driving as a desirable job.
Initiatives now underway to fill this need include:
- The ATA Advocacy Agenda:
- As reported by CCJ, part of the ATA’s 2015 advocacy agenda announced in February, is to lower the age requirement for commercial drivers. Currently, if a high school grad is interested in trucking right out of high school, federal regulations and insurance limit them until they reach age 21 or older. This time gap deters many young drivers.
- Programs for Returning Military:
- The American Trucking Associations and the Truckload Carriers Association have both committed on behalf of their members to hiring hundreds of thousands of veterans in the coming years.
- Efforts to Recruit and Retain Women:
- According to truckinginfo.com, “carriers are increasingly highlighting the successes and experiences of their women drivers.” In fact Con-way recently launched a YouTube series focusing on women drivers. It is estimated that 5-7% of the commercial truck driving population is made up of women, which suggests there is a large labor pool that could be tapped here.
As some of these initiatives are in their early stages of development, they are unlikely to provide significant short term capacity and carrier pricing relief. Driver pay increases are likely to continue through the first half of 2015. As reported by truckinginfo.com, Gordon Klemp, head of the National Transportation Institute, said that a normal cycle of pay increases runs about 33 months. However, “If things continue at this rate, ‘we will probably wrap up the cycle in about 13 to 15 months.’ ”