Truck Driver Shortages In The US And What It Could Mean For Safety

by The Roth Firm
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In 2017, trucks carried approximately 70% of all goods shipped within the United States, and the industry is only growing.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) projects annual growth of the trucking industry to be approximately 3.4% until 2023.

As a result, the current truck driver shortage in the United States will continue and worsen, thereby increasing the impact of the recent truck driver shortage on the country’s already unsafe roadways.1

ATA projects that trucking companies would need to hire 900,000 additional drivers to keep up with the current booming economy!2

Truck Driver Shortages Rapidly Rising

Currently, truck driver shortage rates are rising rapidly, and it can be felt throughout the economy.

In 2014, the trucking industry was short 38,000 drivers, and the American Trucking Associations projected a 50,000 driver shortage by the end of 2017.3

If the shortage continues at this rate, it will rapidly grow to a 175,000 driver shortage by 2024.4

What that means is drivers being overworked and an increased risk of accidents.

Where Did All the Drivers Go?

Not just anyone can be a truck driver. Trucking companies have strict hiring requirements for truck drivers, causing a quality versus 
quantity issue.5

Here is an example of hiring requirements.

In 2012, 88% of trucking companies surveyed reported that most persons seeking employment as a truck driver were not qualified.6

What is preventing the qualified drivers from either staying employed as a truck driver, or preventing those who are actually qualified from seeking employment in this industry?

In answering this question, we should consider the following:

Age: The minimum age requirement to become a truck driver is 21 years old, while the average of a truck driver is 55 years old.7

Gender: The truck driving industry is male dominated. According to the Department of Labor, women comprise approximately 47% of the workforce, yet only 6% of all truck drivers are women.8

Working and Lifestyle Conditions: Because most truck drivers are assigned long routes and will not return home for multiple weeks at a time, driving a truck becomes more like a lifestyle rather than a job. Being stuck on the road for weeks is not most people’s ideal work schedule, and this lifestyle can cause fatigue and undiagnosed conditions like sleep apnea, among others.
9

Job Alternatives: With the economy on the rise and the job market increasingly improving, people seeking new employment are finding better alternatives than driving a truck.10 For example, with the age requirement being 21 years old to drive a truck, younger people find it more appealing to start a career in construction. Construction companies have increased, payroll, do not require extensive travel, and require less responsibility.11

Government Regulations: Although regulations are put in place to help increase safety of not only truck drivers, but drivers like you on the road, these regulations exacerbate the driver shortage as well.12

How to Fix the Shortage

As shown above, there are a lot of factors keeping potential truck drivers from entering the profession.

Here are a few ways that truck driving can become more appealing to the younger generation entering the workforce:

Increase Wages: One easy solution is to increase truck driver pay and increase benefit packages offered by trucking companies.13

Lifestyle Changes: By increasing the time drivers can spend at home, the negative “lifestyle” of spending more time in your truck than in your own home can dissipate.14 

Lowering the Minimum Age Requirement: By lowering the minimum age requirement from 21 years old to 18 years old, trucking companies could take advantage of persons entering the workforce to fill a large number of open positions.15

Diversifying the Industry: As noted above, truck driving is a male dominated industry. If trucking companies create programs to entice more women, veterans, and other minorities, they will be able to help bridge the gap in the massive driver shortage.16 

Self-Driving Trucks: With self-driving technology rapidly growing, tractor trailer trucks are not forgotten with this technology.17 Companies such as Tesla are rolling out self-driving trucks that are sure to attract more workers to this industry.

Revise Truckload Shipping Methods: The two main shipping methods: (1) On the Road shipping and (2) Full-Truckload shipping require more time on the road, which in turn creates a harder lifestyle for truck drivers.18

What Automobile Drivers Can Expect to See on the Road

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 4,311 trucks were involved in fatal crashes, generating a 26% increase since 2009.19

Some technology companies are trying to answer the need for increased safety.

In November 2017, Tesla released a fully electric semi truck that can haul 80,000 pounds and travel up to 500 miles before having to stop at a charging station. 20

This truck is not only efficient, but it can basically drive itself. Every truck is fitted with automatic braking and technology to make sure the truck stays in its lane.

With the Tesla semi truck going into production in 2019, Tesla believes that these standard autopilot innovations will decrease human error and increase safety for regular drivers on the highway like you and me.21

Our hope for the future is that trucking companies address truck driver shortage issues by implementing new ideas to attract and hire more drivers. Specifically, drivers that are highly qualified and are empowered to utilize all available technological advancements in order to improve the safety on our highways and roads.

References Used in Article:

1. Marshall, Aarian, Wired Magaine Online “What does Tesla’s Automated Truck Mean for Truckers?” Pub. 11-17-17.

2 NPR,“Trucking Industry Struggles With Growing Driver Shortage,” Pub. Jan., 9, 2018.

3. TRUCK DRIVER SHORTAGE ANALYSIS 2015; Marshall, Aarian, Wired Magaine Online “What does Tesla’s Automated Truck Mean for Truckers?” Pub. 11-17-17.

4. TRUCK DRIVER SHORTAGE ANALYSIS 2015

5. TRUCK DRIVER SHORTAGE ANALYSIS 2015; ATA Benchmarking Guide for Driver Recruitment & Retention

6. TRUCK DRIVER SHORTAGE ANALYSIS 2015; ATA Benchmarking Guide for Driver Recruitment & Retention 

7. ATAs Driver Shortage Report (2015).

8. ATAs Driver Shortage Report (2015).

9. NPR “Trucking Industry Struggles With Growing Driver Shortage” Pub. Jan., 9, 2018.

10. ATAs Driver Shortage Report (2015).

11. ATAs Driver Shortage Report (2015).

12. ATAs Driver Shortage Report (2015).

13. LTX Solutions “What is Causing the Truck Driver Shortage and How Can We Fix It.”

14. LTX Solutions “What is Causing the Truck Driver Shortage and How Can We Fix It.”

15. LTX Solutions “What is Causing the Truck Driver Shortage and How Can We Fix It.”

16. LTX Solutions “What is Causing the Truck Driver Shortage and How Can We Fix It.”

17. LTX Solutions “What is Causing the Truck Driver Shortage and How Can We Fix It.”

18. LTX Solutions “What is Causing the Truck Driver Shortage and How Can We Fix It.”

19. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration,https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2015, Updated: Friday, April 7, 2017.

20. Marshall, Aarian, Wired Magazine Online “What does Tesla’s Automated Truck Mean for Truckers?” Pub. 11-17-17.

21. Marshall, Aarian, Wired Magazine Online “What does Tesla’s Automated Truck Mean for Truckers?” Pub. 11-17-17.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© The Roth Firm | Attorney Advertising

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