With shipping demands increasing, the gap between the number of needed truck drivers and those available has been growing wider. There is currently a shortage of 50,000 truckers across the United States. As the number of drivers continues to fall short of what the shipping industry needs, shipping costs are beginning to rise. There are many reasons for the shortage of truck drivers, and top members of the shipping industry are trying desperately to come up with ways to remedy them.
Reliant on One Demographic
The trucking field represents a clear demographic, especially in recent years. Middle-aged to elderly male employees make up most of the truck drivers. Because of the age trend amongst the drivers, many of them will retire within the next ten to twenty years, meaning there will be a swift plunge in the number of drivers. Gender is also a factor. Only 6% of the trucking workforce are women drivers, which implies that the trucking industry is missing out on almost half of the population. The shortage will intensify if the demographic trends continue.
Many experts believe that one of the reasons for the lack of young drivers is the federal law requiring a trucker to be least 21 to get an interstate commercial driver’s license. For many, this gives them three years after graduating high school to become invested in another field.
Inability to Go Home Often
Truckers have unusual lifestyles that many people have a hard time dealing with. Many new drivers’ route assignments only give them a break from the road and chance to go home a few times a month. Truck drivers essentially need to learn how to live out of their trucks.
Difficult to Stay Healthy
Constant commuting makes it difficult to maintain a healthy diet. Many truck drivers end up living off gas station snacks and fast food, both of which are extremely unhealthy. The lack of access to nutritional options leads many drivers to struggle with weight and even develop health issues, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Another issue with long periods of time on the road is sleep. Most truck drivers suffer from serious sleep deprivation because the tight deadlines often force them to drive through the night. If they take a break to sleep, they often must sleep inside their truck.
To combat the sleep deprivation issues, experts have created new technology, an electronic logging device, that is beginning to limit the number of hours a driver can work at a time.
Possible Solutions to the Truck Driver Shortage
In response to the issues with trucker shortages, people in the trucking industry are trying to find solutions that will increase the workforce, thereby bringing the shipping prices back down. Some of the potential solutions include:
- Increasing the average pay for truck drivers,
- Lowering the federal age for getting a commercial license,
- Decreasing the time a truck driver spends on the road, and
- Making the industry more friendly to minorities, women, and veterans.
Some top companies, such as Tesla, are also working on designing autonomous trucks that do not require a truck driver to operate. If successful, autonomous trucking will have a serious impact on all aspects of the shipping industry.