Trucking Industry Faces Growing Driver Shortage

As the number of drivers declines, the American Trucking Association is calling for its members to adapt to changes in the industry.

America’s trucking industry is facing a potentially drastic decline in drivers, according to a new report by the American Trucking Association.

Carriers and fleet executives have begun expressing concern about their ability to identify and hire qualified professional drivers.

Industry growth, driver retirements, people leaving the industry, and government regulations are all contributing to the gap between supply and demand, ATA says.

Currently, the association estimates a shortage of 20,000 to 25,000 drivers in the for-hire truckload market, and if the trend continues, the shortage could grow to 239,000 drivers over the next 10 years.

“Carriers and fleet executives have begun expressing concern about their ability to identify and hire qualified professional drivers,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement, “and with this report, we tried to identify where the impacts were being felt the most, why the shortage is increasingly worrisome, and why it has the potential to get worse.”

The report cited a recent ATA survey in which 90 percent of for-hire truckload carriers reported they could not find enough drivers who meet U.S. Department of Transportation requirements. Costello said the industry will need to recruit almost 100,000 new drivers a year to keep up with demand—most of which is coming from industry growth and retirements.

Two government regulations could exacerbate the shortage, ATA says. Changes to the hours-of-service rules may require carriers to add more trucks and drivers to carry the same amount of freight, while the Compliance Safety Accountability Program and its government-facilitated pre-employment driver screening program could limit the number of qualified drivers.

Last month, ATA President and CEO Bill Graves addressed the driver shortage and the changing trucking industry at the association’s annual conference in Las Vegas.

“I honestly do believe that anyone who is operating in the trucking industry is at a crossroads,” Graves said. “In fact, you’re facing an entire series of crossroads—each one a decision point sending you in directions that will ultimately determine success or failure, profitability or loss, growth or stagnation.”

Graves said trucking companies need to adapt to the industry’s changes in order to survive.

“As unpleasant as that option may be, it’s simply a truth that has always confronted the industry,” Graves said. He also acknowledged that the past is usually a good indicator of future progress and added that “this industry’s past is certainly a story of growth, success, and profitability.”

(TMG archive photo)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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