A Brief on the Driver Shortage Problem Faced by the U.S. Trucking Industry
Driver shortage has been a growing concern in the trucking industry, which became more pronounced after the pandemic made online purchasing a norm for consumers. Higher wages, lowering of age requirement for interstate driving and shorter routes are the most recommended solutions to address the problem. Although the first two recommendations are feasible, their implementations require federal legislation. Actually the third recommendation has already been proven as the most workable solution, as it also addresses some of the underlying causes of driver shortages in the U.S.
However, implementation of shorter routes is difficult if planned manually and executed without proper data communication. Nevertheless, trucking organizations that use truck management software in running their day-to-day operations have had success in meeting many of the challenges faced by the trucking industry. Particularly the factors that have been driving the continuous increase in driver shortages.
In 2016, driver shortage in the U.S. trucking industry reached an alarming number of 36, 000. The number continued to surge, which in 2018 was monitored to have nearly doubled at 63,000. The American Trucking Association expects the number to go higher since driver turnover rates have propelled by up to 90 – 100 percent.
Apparently, driver shortage is only one of the consequences of the problems that beset the trucking industry. While some lawmakers have already proposed bills that would help the industry address certain trucking issues, Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan is seen as the most comprehensive. The proposed legislation intends to overhaul the country’s crumbling infrastructure, which at the same time gives focus to improving driver-safety.
Underlying Causes of Driver Shortage in the U.S. Trucking Industry
Safety issues specifically those related to long hauls are among the factors that have been driving the increase in driver shortage. Truck driving ranks high in the list of the most dangerous occupations, especially in the U.S. where roads and bridges have been in poor conditions for several decades now.
Lifestyle is another factor, because more often than not, drivers have to spend a lot of long hours, even several days on roads far away from the comfort of family and home. The divorce rate among long haul truck drivers has been noted as high, and likewise expected to go higher if not met with workable solutions.
After all, the trucking industry is under increasing pressure to meet the surges in demand for prompt and quick delivery of food supplies, ecommerce merchandise and raw materials which is in light of President Biden’s plan to revive and boost local manufacturing.
The population of American truck drivers are aging, where many more are likely to retire a few years from now. Actually, the retirement movement in trucking operations accelerated during the pandemic due to health issues. Some preferred to downshift by taking on driving jobs in less hazardous work environments, instead of returning to former jobs in the trucking industry.
While there are several other underlying reasons why driver shortage has become a major problem in trucking businesses, most of them have been attributed as consequences of long haul transportations.
Why Implementation of Shorter Routes is Seen as the Most Feasible Solution
In taking into account all the reasons that have been discouraging new batches of drivers to stay longer in the trucking business, Industry experts agree that shorter trucking routes are the most feasible solution. Where truck drivers are paid-by-the-mile during long hauls, many have come to realize that the amount they earn do not compensate for the long uncomfortable hours they spend on a dangerous job.
The shorter route solution is a delivery system in which a driver takes a long distance load order to a specific drop-off point. Another driver originating from that drop-off picks up the load to deliver them to their destination or to another drop-off point. The rationale behind shorter routes is that truck drivers will have better opportunities to enjoy their occupation and while earnings will be lower, it’s a fair enough exchange for being able to go home every day.