Truck drivers have been in serious demand for the last year or so. About 51,000 more drivers are needed right now to meet the demands from big American companies like Amazon and Walmart, and the shortage is leading to delayed delivery and higher prices for what people are having delivered. The American Trucking Association predicts that this shortage will only get worse in the coming years unless something changes.
Demographically, the trucking industry is not very diverse. Although women make up about 47% of the American workforce, they make up only 6% of commercial truck drivers. In addition to gender, the average age for a truck driver today is around 55 years old. If you assume those people will retire soon, you can imagine the trouble this shortage can cause. A big reason for the average age being so high, is the regulated driving age. You have to be 21 to hold an Interstate Commercial Drivers License—that leaves a three-year gap after high school, where potential truck industry employees have plenty of time to get distracted by other opportunities.
The lifestyle of a truck driver can be rough. Extended time on the road away from family, extremely limited healthy food options, showering in rest stops etc. All of these things together are enough to keep a lot of great potential employees away from the industry.
Companies are offering tons of incentives for new drivers in an attempt to make up for the shortage, but that’s not enough. Driver’s should be paid more across the board, not just when they sign on. Just like with gas, if there’s a shortage of something it becomes more valuable and consequently more expensive. Truck drivers are in demand right now, so the one’s pulling the weight should be rewarded. Not only do they deserve higher salaries, but they also deserve better benefits, too.
Trying to keep drivers as local as possible will motivate them to join the industry; acknowledging that they’re people with friends and families will make them feel valued. Decreasing the average length-of-haul will make for much happier drivers.
We need to change the stereotype that truck driving is strictly a manly job, and encourage women to join the industry. Not only do we want them to help with the driver shortage, but we also need them to keep the industry afloat. Targeting underrepresented groups in the industry is an important step in solving this shortage crisis.
In addition to these things, lowering the regulated driving age will help tremendously. The 18-20 age range has the highest rate of unemployment—they want work, but they have to go elsewhere for it until they’re 21. If the age requirement is lowered, younger people could get started in the industry sooner.
While there’s always talk of driverless trucking, that future is a long, long way off. Demand is increasing exponentially, and the driver shortage is already affecting this, and will continue affecting it if things don’t change.
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