Is there a truck driver shortage?

We hear more often than seldom, that the trucking industry is struggling with a shortage of truck drivers. The ATA, American Trucking Association, has published a Driver Shortage Report in October 2017. We will summarize some of their findings and information in order to answer the question – Is there a truck driver shortage and how big is it?

Firstly, it is important to explain based on which data and how exactly this analysis report was conducted. The ATA 2017 Truck Driver Shortage Analysis has concentrated solely on drivers of Class 8 tractor-trailers since this is the category in which the greatest shortage is documented. The challenge in estimating and forecasting a deficit in truck drivers is the exaggerated number we would receive if we “just” sum up all of the truck job offers on the job market. The reason for this is – motor carriers are competing for the same freight. If a trucking company has more loads than drivers to transport them – new drivers will be hired. But the problem in this is – corporation C offers a freight job requiring five CDL drivers to company A. But if A does not have them right away, corporation C will ask company B for the same, and therefore both A and B will list an overall number of 10 truck driver positions, when in fact there are only five.

Although there are multiple reasons for truck driver shortage – the biggest issue seems to be the average age of freight drivers – documented to be 49 years old. This means that most of the CDL drivers will be retiring soon, which accounts for the analysis’s prediction – shortage could rise to over 174,000 by 2026. Further reasons for the shortage include the fact that the industry can not attract women – with 47{06e1cb09d3d289234b1db2b95ea92b6dc098ad25a5acb6e062c4ae0fabcaadb9} of the working class in the USA – women make up only 6{06e1cb09d3d289234b1db2b95ea92b6dc098ad25a5acb6e062c4ae0fabcaadb9} of truck drivers in 2016.
The analysis only illustrates the difference between expected supply and demand of drivers, applying demographic and population data.

The first shortfall for truck drivers has been reported in 2005 with roughly 20,000. There was a small decrease in the shortage in the Great Recession in 2008, as freight offers decreased, but it swelled up slowly starting in 2011. The industry continued to stiffen and experienced a shooting-up shortage of 45,000 in 2015. In 2016, the shortage was less than in 2015 but still high enough. By the end of 2017, the highest record of CDL truck drivers deficit was administered, with the transition on Dec. 18 from paper logging to electronic logging devices for the purpose of recording the hours-of-service.

Now of all times, is the moment to seize and seek out a job as a CDL driver. With the demand rising, transportation companies are offering better deals such as a higher pay per mile/hour, signing bonuses, and more prominent benefits. The deficit must seem worse to motor carrier corporations, because many of them have high requirements for the drivers they hire, so the problem is not only quantity but also the quality of the applicants. Many companies operate upon high safety regulations and do not “just fill the position”. If the trend in truck drivers shortage continues – soon transportation corporations will need to invest in more expensive insurance plans, because the industry might shift in a way where they have no choice but to employ inexperienced drivers. As a whole, the predictions for the transportation sector are 898,000 new drivers to be employed over the next ten years. As mentioned above – the biggest factor is the average age of drivers, but the second largest one is industry development – resulting in around 28{06e1cb09d3d289234b1db2b95ea92b6dc098ad25a5acb6e062c4ae0fabcaadb9} of hired drivers.

Is the truck driver shortage for Local or OTR?

As you might suspect, more drivers prefer to transport goods locally than do over-the-road loads. The reasons are rather trivial – less complicated traveling process and the luxury of being home every night. That being said, the CDL drivers’ deficit mostly impacts OTR loads.
Even though the ATA report is solely concentrated on OTR drivers shortage, the expansion of the transportation industry, as well as the ELD Mandate, account for a drivers deficit in other sectors of the industry as well. Regardless of where the shortage bulk is at the moment, we at CDL Advisor will make sure to match you with whatever kind of trucking job you are seeking, and it being a perfect match for both you and the transportation company is our priority.

What are the causes of the CDL driver shortage?

There are many causes, but we will regard and summarize the main ones:

  • Rising average age: as mentioned above, the average age of truck drivers is 49, which is quite high, especially when it comes to a comparison with the general U.S. class – 42. An even higher median age was documented for private fleet drivers – 52 years old. Furthermore, the minimum age requirement for heavy trucking driver’s license is 21 years old. The result of this age condition is – youngsters with high school education are going into other industries – fast food, construction or retail.
  •  Gender: Women make up only 4,5{06e1cb09d3d289234b1db2b95ea92b6dc098ad25a5acb6e062c4ae0fabcaadb9} – 6{06e1cb09d3d289234b1db2b95ea92b6dc098ad25a5acb6e062c4ae0fabcaadb9} of the truck drivers, but almost 47{06e1cb09d3d289234b1db2b95ea92b6dc098ad25a5acb6e062c4ae0fabcaadb9} of U.S. working class. Fleets are missing on a big portion of the general population workers in potential applicants.

  • The way of life: Inexperienced drivers are sometimes given worse working conditions, and designated to drive longer, on weekends, or on holidays. Therefore many prospective drivers give up before even having tried this career, or only do local loads, which again puts the OTR deficit in the spotlight.

  • Growing economy: With the economy growing overall, the transportation sector is expanding as well – resulting in more job openings. This may be regarded as positive and negative. The negative side of it, especially when regarded from a motor carrier’s perspective, is the big difference between supply and demand where demand is much higher than the prospective and current truck drivers.
  • Regulations: Further regulations and over-complicating the truck drivers duties (such as with ELD Mandate) weaken the transport sector’s output. The cutback in capacity results in the demand of more drivers to transport the unchanging load of freight.

So yes, there is a CDL truck drivers shortage. And it seems that it’s growing by the minute. So seize the moment and get matched with your dream job at CDL


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