Lonely Roads: Truck Shortage Takes Toll on Supply Chain

In 2018, the trucking industry was short 60,800 drivers — up nearly 20% from 2017’s figure of 50,700. ( Top Producer )

In 2018, the trucking industry was short 60,800 drivers — up nearly 20% from 2017’s figure of 50,700. If current trends hold, the American Trucking Association (ATA) says the shortage could rise to more than 160,000 by 2028. 

The driver shortage is a problem for the entire supply chain, as 71.4% of all freight tonnage is moved on the nation’s highways, per ATA. 

Why the Shortage? 

Today’s truck drivers are aging, and companies are having a hard time replacing those retiring drivers. Also, the trucking industry struggles to attract all segments of the population. In 2018, 7% of drivers were women and 40% were minorities. 

“For the last year and a half, it’s been really tough to find drivers period,” says Brian Stoller, owner of Stoller Trucking in Gridley, Ill. “Put qualified on top of that, and dependable drivers on top of that, and well it’s been impossible.”

Employees today want the perfect workday scenario with evenings off, Stoller says, which isn’t conducive for the occupation. 

“It’s a change that we’re all seeing across the U.S. — it’s hard to find good, qualified workers and truck driving falls right into that,” he says. 

Many carriers have strict hiring criteria based on driving history and other factors. Despite receiving applications, motor carriers are finding few eligible candidates. 

“The pool of truckers has shrunk,” says Jason Wishall, owner of Wishall Transport in Tolono, Ill. “There are so many more construction jobs with the economy being better these days. Many drivers are switching back to the trades.”

Supply Chain Effects

This shortage trend could cause severe supply chain disruptions. “Some trucking companies won’t be able to get enough drivers, and some may go out of business,” Wishall says. 

Wishall and Stoller continue to adjust. They have increased drivers’ salaries, health insurance benefits, vacation days and other incentives. 

The industry will need to do more, says Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. This could include removing entry barriers for younger drivers and veterans and attracting non-traditional demographics.  TP