America Faces a Truck Driver Shortage

Commercial trucking companies need 30,000 new truck drivers now, industry studies show.

Love to drive? Need a job? If you’re up for the challenge, there’s a job waiting for you in commercial trucking, E3 Spark Plugs has found. The American Trucking Association estimates the industry needs an additional 30,000 truck drivers right now, and as many as 239,000 by 2022. That means at least 100,000 new truckers will need to be added every year for the next decade for American product distributors to keep up with consumer demand.

Once upon a time, trucking was a solid, sought-after line of work. But when the 2008 recession hit, the industry took a bruising. Many trucking companies were unable to borrow money, which forced them to downsize and cut their driving staffs. Meanwhile, lots of independent contractor drivers unable to find steady work lost their equipment to the economic crash.

Now that the economy is beginning to rebound a bit, trucking companies again are optimistic about their financial prospects going forward. Trouble is, past and prospective drivers aren’t so convinced. Many formerly pink-slipped drivers with families, and particularly those with young children, caught a glimpse of what they had been missing out on pre-layoff – first steps, Little League homeruns, dance recitals, etc. And so, they’ve decided to switch industries in favor of a job that allows them to stay close to home.

Meanwhile, younger would-be truck drivers perhaps have been scared off by stories of low wages, lousy hours and increased federal regulations that limit consecutive driving hours in an effort to improve safety and curb trucking accident rates. While we’re all for better safety, those regulations have put a dent in paychecks, drivers say.

Still, American consumers want their stuff, and there’s a whole lot of stuff to be had – it’s just gotta get shipped from the warehouse to their house. And that means US trucking companies are going to have to bring their A game to attract new drivers.

In its Q2 earnings release published in July, Swift Transportation lamented about the nationwide shortage of qualified and committed truck drivers.

“We were constrained in the truckload and (central refrigerated systems) segments by the challenging driver market,” the company said in a press release. “Our driver turnover and unseated truck count were higher than anticipated.”

To remedy the situation, Swift Transportation, which just happens to be North America’s largest truckload carrier, says it’s paying higher wages and providing better training to prospective truck drivers. In fact, the company’s salaries, wages and benefits rose from $223.0 million in Q2 2013 to $238.1 million in Q2 2014. That’s a difference of $14.2 million.

Clearly, it’s a buyer’s market for truck drivers. Pay is rising and it’s a great way to see a bit of America via the open road. If you’re considering making that move, here’s a little ’70s style cinematic inspiration, though we don’t recommend Bandit’s brand of driving if you’d like to keep that new job…

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