If current trends continue, The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service could very likely place over the road truck drivers on the list of endangered species. There probably is no one in our industry today that is unaware of the shortage of drivers in the country. At least once a week the trade press reminds us of the situation and the impact it is likely to have on capacity. According to the American Trucking Associations there are 30,000 fewer drivers than are necessary to meet current demand, but this is expected to increase dramatically as the economy improves. The DOT has estimated that we will need 330,000 new drivers by 2020. Capacity shortages are almost certain to follow resulting in higher rates. Some industry experts are predicting double digit increases by next year.

Depending on which side of the fence you are sitting, the shortage is blamed on such things as CSA 2010 enforcement, hours of service rules, EOB recorders and other forms of government intervention, as well as infrastructure caused traffic delays and inconsiderate shippers and receivers. The fact of the matter however, is that a driver’s job is simply not attractive to today’s work force. The most recent data shows that the average salary for over the road drivers in 2012 was $39,830. This is not exactly an overwhelming amount when you consider the hours, working conditions, high fuel costs, unhealthy food, and the impact on personal and family life. Younger workers simply do not want to do it. This is particularly concerning when you consider the average age of today’s drivers is 55. Already the turnover rate for large carriers hovers in the 90% range, and as the economy continues to improve, I suspect even more drivers will turn to other occupations where they can make more, sleep in their own beds every night, and live more like normal people.

Although some carriers are trying very hard to improve both pay and working conditions, I believe it will take an industry wide effort to make a significant impact. The carriers obviously will incur increased costs which ultimately must be passed on to the shipping public. Under their own cost pressures, shippers are reluctant to pay higher rates, but inevitably they must accept the fact that the cost of the service they require is going to go up.

Written By: Clifford F. Lynch