According to the National Tank Truck Carriers trade group, nearly one out of four trucks in the country are parked due to a shortage of drivers. Current estimates show the trucking industry will need more than one million truckers to join the industry over the next decade to maintain current demand.
Demand for truck drivers suddenly dropped when the COVID-19 lockdowns decreased demand in the gasoline market, forcing drivers to search for other jobs. However, the return to pre-pandemic employment in the trucking industry is being undermined by unemployment benefits and stimulus checks that are paying more than many jobs across the country.
According to Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, “We came into the pandemic with a shortage of about 61,000 drivers. I’m certain the new numbers when they come out will be a bit more inflated because of the pandemic.” Spears stressed, “It’s a long-term problem that we need to do multiple things to address.”
During the pandemic, truckers played a critical role in delivering grocery items and other household necessities to stores across the country. They are well-compensated for their hard work, earning $53,000 for driving nationally — a $7,000 increase from 2013.
Another reason for the shortage is the high number of drivers retiring. Spear said, “Our ability to respond to this economy and grow more quickly really does depend on having a viable talent pool.” He points out that the industry is having “trouble recruiting in terms of young people.” Trucking is a great alternative for young people who don’t feel like college is right for them and would like to get paid to travel and see the country.
An estimated 70% of domestic freight in the US is moved by trucks, which means it’s highly likely that “regardless of where it is in the supply chain, at one point in time it will touch a truck and it’s a driver that gets it where it needs to go,” said Spear.