As we head into a new decade, the shortage of available truck drivers continues to grow. The industry is currently in need of more than 60,000 drivers. Analysts estimate that this number could grow to 100,000 by 2023.
Most trucking companies are scrambling to entice new drivers with better pay, proper benefits, performance bonuses, and more. The question is, who will these new drivers be? Who should they be?
Before we can answer those, we need to look at the base problem….
What’s Causing the Driver Shortage?
While there are certainly a lot of factors at play, there are two primary issues that have created this cycle of shortage:
The current workforce is aging and retiring.
New drivers aren’t replacing them.
The average age for truck drivers is 55. The average retirement age for men in the US is 63. That doesn’t leave a lot of active years left for much of the workforce. Now, plenty of truck drivers keep on trucking well into their 70s. In fact, some people pick up truck driving as a retirement job.
But ultimately, the current demographic of truck drivers are phasing out. Whether it’s from retirement or health issues or something else, veteran truck drivers aren’t going to cover the need. If the truck driving shortage is going to be fixed, it will need a new, young workforce.
Unfortunately, trucking companies have struggled to appeal to younger drivers for a while. Some of this stems from stigmatism that surrounds the occupation. Trucking has been seen as inferior to other occupations simply because it doesn’t require a degree.
This view, thankfully, has started to change as people are realizing they can make as much as (if not more than) a degree-based job by driving truck. Though trucking school is generally a requirement, this is considerably cheaper and faster than traditional college or even technical school.
Meanwhile, the industry has become more and more integrated with technology, making it the perfect place for people who want to work with modern tools and systems. It’s really not the industry it was 20-30 years ago. So then, who are the truck drivers of tomorrow?
People Who Can Help Fill the Trucking Industry
Some think that automation is the inevitable fix to the driver shortage. While there certainly may come a day when all trucking is controlled by robots, we are still quite a ways out from that even being considered as a possibility. In the meantime, we need properly trained people to fill the role.
Women are becoming a popular candidate for new drivers. The trucking industry has long been dominated by men, with only 6% of truck drivers being women.
But both trucking companies and women’s initiatives are taking steps to making the industry more open to women, ensuring there are proper facilities for females at rest stops, trucking schools, and more. Additionally, some companies are offering specific incentives to women.
Whether male or female, younger drivers are needed. One of the barriers for younger drivers is age restrictions. Though 48 states allow 18-year olds to earn their CDL, they’re unable to drive across state lines until they’re 21.
This puts a major cap on career possibilities, leading them to turn to other paths after high school graduation. Though there are still in-state jobs that they can work until they’re 21, it’s not what many potential truck drivers are looking for.
They want to hit the open road and cross state lines. They want to get through their training and start a proper trucking job right away.
Legislation is happening that could make this a reality, even for recent high school grads. There’s a bill being proposed called DRIVE-Safe that would lower the interstate driving age to 18 in conjunction with introducing an apprenticeship training program. True to its name, safety is one of the key focal points of the program.
Trucking Companies Have a Responsibility to Improve Conditions
Sadly, another thing that has driven away current and potential drivers from the trucking industry is trucking companies themselves. Many companies have treated their drivers with a lack of respect. Drivers have been forced to work within everchanging schedules under stressful conditions for the bare minimum pay.
If they’re serious about turning around the driver shortage, they’ll need to be different. That’s what we try to be here at Woodruff. Consistent mileage and scheduling, competitive pay, performance incentives, quality at-home time, and paid time off are just a few of the things we offer.
We also strive to treat our drivers like part of the family. We currently have truck driving jobs available in Springfield, Ohio. Contact us today!