There’s been a lot of discussion around the truck driver shortage. There are countless articles about how many spots the industry needs to fill (and how that number will keep rising in the coming years), and how we can go about solving the shortage. But how did the truck driver shortage happen? What root causes have contributed to this panic we’ve seen in recent years?
We’ve put together a list of 5 causes of the driver shortage. While there are many articles dedicated to figuring out how to solve the shortage (you can read ours here and here) we want to examine each of the 5 factors that have contributed to this gap of current truck drivers versus truck drivers required within the industry.
5 Causes of the Driver Shortage
Increased demand in almost every industry has led to a growth in shipping demands. Increased spending by the general public means more products and materials being transported each day. The e-commerce boom has lead to online shopping, overnight shipping, and customers demanding product reach them fast than ever. Not only do transport companies have to get products to the shelves of stores but now they are also delivering goods directly from supplier to customer. Gone are the days of companies being closed on Sundays, many companies are open 24/7 and expect to have their goods delivered when they need them and when the market calls for them. This means having truck drivers available around the clock to travel as required. Growth of industries means growth of the trucking industry and the need to find reliable truck drivers that can service companies 365 days a year.
The trucking industry has always had the public perception of being an older man’s career. Many images we see of truck drivers show the drivers as men in their 40-50’s who have grown accustomed to a life on the road. This is somewhat true for the industry; many drivers are baby boomers that are now entering retirement age. Since these workers make up a large percentage of the trucking industry there are now many positions to fill and will be increasingly in the coming years. On top of that, these workers are skilled drivers, often having been in the industry for a long time, so not only is the industry required to fill their positions but they are losing many experienced drivers in favour of new drivers looking to enter into driving.
3. Lack of New Talent
Related to the cause above, there are some new drivers entering into the industry but most of these drivers are coming right out of a training program without any truck driving experience under their belt. Additionally, it is difficult to entice younger people entering the workforce to consider truck driving as a viable career choice. As stated above, the public perception of the trucking industry is of older men constantly on the road, and that doesn’t appeal to many young people who are looking for a better work-life balance. With an overwhelming amount of options at each young person’s disposal it can be incredibly difficult to persuade them into a driving career. This means that the open spots must be filled by people already in the industry or companies must train brand new drivers coming out of driving schools.
4. Driver Pay
Driver pay plays a huge part in the current truck driver shortage. Drivers are often not paid for wait time (which can amount to a large part of their job and long hours) and driver wages have not increased significantly in many years even though there is increased growth within the industry. Many transportation companies, both small and large, expect drivers to accept these wages for a job that requires them to be on the road and away from their families for long periods of time. These wages affect the ability to recruit new drivers into the industry and deter skilled drivers from changing companies or getting back into company driving.
Read this article by smart-trucking.com for more information on this particular driver shortage cause.
If companies are unable to take new drivers than they will be forced to recruit from within the trucking industry. Company culture and factors such as pay can affect their ability to find and keep good drivers. Another factor that can affect this ability is their dispatchers. In the old days dispatchers used to be drivers that had hung up their keys. These days they are young people working with software, disconnected from the drivers, and less knowledgeable of the needs of the driver and of the industry as a whole. This can cause problems for experienced drivers looking for a certain type of dispatcher and a certain type of company culture. While dispatchers are not the sole cause of the shortage they contribute to a company’s culture and their ability to recruit and keep skilled drivers. These factors can also result in seasoned drivers leaving the company for another or retiring out of the industry.
Industry growth, retirement, lack of new talent, driver wages, and company culture all play a role in the driver shortage. These are 5 factors that many believe to be the causes of the driver shortage and solutions to these 5 causes must be found if there is to be any attempt to lessen the growing driver shortage.