O Truck Driver, Where Art Thou?
The driver shortage is real, and getting worse. The American Transportation Association says that the US needs to hire about 900,000 drivers to keep up with demand. According to an industry analysis by DAT Solutions, just one truck (and driver) was available for every 12 loads to be shipped at the start of 2018. If there isn’t a driver for a truck, the truck won’t be going anywhere.
The strong growth of the economy and rise in e-commerce orders means more deliveries need to be made, so more drivers are needed. To make the shortage even worse, the average age of a truck driver is 55, which means many are retiring. Young people don’t want to pursue a truck driving career because they fear the quality of life of always being away from family, long hours of solitude on the road and low pay.
At the 2018 National Industrial Transportation League Annual Summit, the CEO of a large trucking firm said that, “of the 113K applications they received last year, only 3% were qualified drivers that they could safely put on the road. This challenge has led trucking companies to increase driver pay in order to attract qualified drivers, which in turn means higher rates.”
One problem is that drivers have to be 21 to drive a truck on the interstate, although drivers can obtain a commercial driver’s license at 18. So even if young drivers are recruited, they have to be 21 years old to drive trucks across states. The DRIVE-Safe Act will hopefully ease the situation by helping to qualify more drivers for the trucking profession by allowing 18 year-olds to take the wheel, yet require them to perform more rigorous training.
The reality is that the truck driver shortage is here today and causing deliveries to be missed and transportation costs to increase. According to USA Today, “Trucking companies have increased rates 6% to 10% in the contracts they’ve signed with shippers over the past year to offset higher wages and take advantage of the strong demand and limited supplies.”
What is the solution?
Truck drivers want better work/life balance. They want to be paid well, receive benefits and have time at home with their families. Some carriers are rewarding drivers for good driving behavior, others are offering a guaranteed minimum number of miles/week so that pay is more predictable. Drivers want to be treated with respect and offered training programs for continuous improvement. Many carriers are offering programs to improve driver health with access to exercise equipment, both at the office or in the truck. Most importantly, drivers want to get home more often, so they want shorter routes and fewer overnights.
All of this costs money, but having happier drivers will be the result.
Shippers can address the truck driver shortage by leveraging technology in the form of a transportation management system to help them work smarter and gain access to a much larger community of carriers. Kuebix TMS allows shippers to compare all carrier rates side-by-side, then book the best carrier for a particular job. After scheduling a shipment, Kuebix creates and prints required paperwork, tracks shipments, audits invoices, manages claims and more.
Using Kuebix TMS, shippers gain control of their transport operations, allowing them to work strategically with their carriers of choice to build long-term relationships. This can lead to improved services, more capacity and available drivers.