While the surrounding energy sectors that rely on the trucking industry continue to experience massive growth across the board, the number of well-trained drivers is quickly disappearing.
The baby boomers that have been the backbone of the industry are reaching retirement age, and there hasn’t been a next wave on the horizon to pick up where they have left off. As the demand for freight drivers continues to climb, there have been only a small number of new drivers coming out of trucking schools.
There are an estimated three million truckers in the United States, but companies already need about 30,000 more, according to the American Trucking Association (ATA). This trucker shortage may expand in coming years as older drivers reach retirement and the energy sector surge continues.
The disparity will be felt on a massive scale if the energy sector’s upward trend carries on. In the past two years alone, oil delivered to refineries by trucks shot up 38 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The ATA has also documented that the necessity for drivers has caused a vicious competition among companies. This has caused truck drivers to switch employers at an alarmingly high rate, with the ATA’s most recent report stating that the annual turnover rate is 97 percent.
This competition has caused earnings to improve for drivers, but the problem has been recruiting a new wave of talent.
Stringent background checks immediately eliminate a portion of applicants, and those who do pass are usually unwilling to take jobs because of the long stretches away from home.
High paying truck driver jobs also require for long hours that can affect health and overall well-being. The Department of Transportation has estimated that every year 1,000 car crashes are caused by fatigued drivers. The new Hours of Service regulations may help combat the long hours, but that also results in drivers not being able to make as much money.