As the global supply chain continues to endure the ripples of the COVID-19 pandemic, an elemental issue inhibits shippers, carriers, and consumers from bouncing back: a driver shortage. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates that the U.S. was short record-breaking 80,000 truck drivers in 2021. This number is particularly alarming, considering that more than 70 percent of all goods in the U.S. are transported by trucks.
So, what exactly are the driving forces behind this shortage? The answer may stem from the approach that there isn’t necessarily a shortage of drivers but a growing lack of interest in working for the trucking industry among both current drivers and prospective candidates due to inefficiencies in the supply network. Poor truckload digitization also plays a role.
Challenges Driving the Driver Shortage
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, truck drivers are gradually returning to work in pre-pandemic proportions. As of November 2021, around 1.5 million people in total were employed as truck drivers — just 4,000 individuals short of the total in November 2019.
However, long-standing frustrations among drivers due to port congestion, unreasonable working conditions, and unaccommodating road infrastructure run the risk of reversing this trend. For veteran drivers, many complaints surround the pay-per-mile system as they often find themselves forgoing compensation and rest time in order to wait on delayed loads caused by rigid schedules and general disorganization.
Additionally, there is a looming age gap that foresees 80 percent of truck drivers retiring within the next several years. To help combat this, carriers have initiated efforts to attract younger talent, but doing so has proven to be easier said than done. Though Congress’s new pilot program lowering the age barrier for interstate truckers from 21 to 18 could certainly help. Here’s why it has traditionally been hard to find drivers:
- The younger generation may find warehousing and other positions that advertise opportunities for upward advancement to be more appealing.
- Long-haul trucking demands a lifestyle that many candidates find difficult.
- New prospects are also being discouraged by entry-level positions that require additional experience beyond just acquiring certification from a trucking program and a CDL.
Add to all of this that it’s just plain expensive to operate a truck these days. One owner of a small trucking company recently shared this anecdote from a gas station near Macon, Georgia: “Fuel price (diesel) is $5.21 for credit. If your truck average 6 miles to a gallon, that’s $.87 a mile to operate.”
Is Truckload Digitization a Solution to the Shortage?
Each level of the supply chain can help dampen the blow of a driver shortage by improving job morale and attracting prospective workers. Shippers can boost their relationships with drivers and carriers by providing better amenities to facilitate a smooth transition for freight trucks trying to load and unload goods. Adaptability with changing ETAs and schedules through real-time collaboration with truck drivers can also improve efficiency at points of contact.
By focusing on drivers’ needs and optimizing their routes and schedules, carriers can ensure that drivers are being paid and recognized for every aspect of their workload. Currently, the ATA is lobbying for more truck parking at rest facilities and a more expansive use of electronic logging devices for better accurate employee time management, among other reforms. Providing career development programs could also give drivers an incentive to stay in the industry and reap the most opportunities from their experience.
Blume CarrierGo Can Help
Truck drivers themselves can help make a difference by facilitating transparency and visibility with their employers and customers during every step of the delivery process. Blume CarrierGo offers a virtual, cloud-based platform to do just that.
By digitizing the logistics of motor freight transportation, Blume CarrierGo allows shippers, carriers, and drivers to effectively communicate all within one space. Truck drivers can receive orders on the road, sign paperwork, and relay important updates at any time. In return, shippers and carriers can monitor outgoing and incoming fleets to ensure maximum utilization of drivers while minimizing wait times and reducing carbon emissions.
With more than 25 years of knowledge and experience in the intermodal market, Blume Global can help you navigate supply chain disruptions. We’re also the first carbon-neutral logistics provider, building innovative technologies to digitize the supply chain. Learn more and sign up today for Blume CarrierGo.