The job of a truck driver in America is crucial. Trucking is the backbone of our economy and just about every industry would collapse without it. In fact, 71% of all freight tonnage moves on trucks in the USA. That means everything from food to medicine to building materials at one point probably rode on a truck.
There are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the US right now and there are another 5.2 million people who hold positions in the industry that support drivers. These positions include logistics managers, routers, schedulers and various other office or warehouse positions. Together, all of these people work to get products onto trucks and delivered to the end customer.
There’s a major problem, however. There aren’t enough truck drivers and this driver shortage is only expected to worsen. The average age of a truck driver in the states is 55 years old. That means there are many who are swiftly approaching retirement age and leaving the workforce. This wouldn’t be a problem if younger generations were taking up the mantle and backfilling vacant positions left by Baby Boomers as they retire. Millennials and Gen Xers aren’t filling these newly vacant positions, however.
In just 7 short years, the American Trucking Associations estimates that we will be short more than 175,000 drivers. This will put renewed pressure on an industry that is already strapped for drivers. It will be up to carriers to entice new labor out of the workforce by offering training programs and opportunities for advancement. Other technological advancements like truck platooning and autonomous vehicles could help to alleviate some of the pressure.
The trucking industry faces many challenges over the next decade. Without enough trucks to deliver all the goods produced in our economy, other industries would stagnate and everyday life would come to a halt. That makes it almost a certainty that the industry will rise to the challenge of the driver shortage and find new and inventive ways to mitigate the negative impacts. It will be interesting to see how the driver shortage progresses!