It seems that every week we hear a new figure about a major threat in the transportation industry: the driver shortage.
Over the last decade, the transportation sector has seen an exceptional shortage of truck drivers across the board. Since more than half of all freight moved in the United States goes by roadway, the driver shortage significantly impacts the engine that keeps our economy moving. Although shippers’ responses to interruptions and deviations in supply have improved largely due to advances in logistics technology, the trucker shortage is still a significant issue that must be closely monitored and prepared for.
The trucker shortage is primarily due to an aging driver workforce, driver safety concerns, high turnover, and lifestyle/health concerns. On the other hand, many market experts are unaware of how a truck driver shortage affects functional capacity.
Simply put, a trucker shortage leads to high driver turnover rates, which has a more significant negative impact on trucking capacity than the shortfall itself.
According to the American Trucking Associations, the truck driver shortage in North America reached an all-time high of slightly over 80,000 drivers in 2021. This shortage represents the discrepancy between the current number of drivers on the market and the ideal number of drivers based on freight demand.
While all business segments are experiencing trucker shortages, the heavy haul (especially cross-border) market is currently experiencing the most difficulty.
Truck drivers today represent an older demographic of the working population as the average age of commercial truck drivers is 46 while the average age of the working population is 42. Furthermore, widespread misunderstandings about the profession have led to a drop in enthusiasm among young individuals entering the workforce. There are stereotypes driving that are commonly used, such as it being an unhealthy, low-paying, and undesirable career. In reality, drivers are professionals with numerous prospects for advancement, considerable earning potential, a high degree of independence, and the opportunity to travel around the country (while getting paid for it). Unfortunately, correcting these misunderstandings is difficult. Trucker driver shortage in 2022 is real as the number of drivers retiring or exiting the industry will be greater than drivers entering the industry while the demand for trucking is not expected to decline.
The lifestyle of a truck driver is the next essential thing to discuss when it comes to the trucker shortage. This lifestyle is unsuitable for many people, and it discourages them from ever considering a job as a truck driver. When they start the profession, most drivers are allocated to routes that keep them on the road for long periods, only coming home a few times a month. Getting used to living in a vehicle and bathing at rest stops while having limited options for nutritional food while on the road is challenging. No one can eat fast food and snack at the petrol station without suffering health implications. Mix that eating style with a truck driver’s sedentary lifestyle, and it’s easy to see how this lifestyle can be undesirable for someone who values their health and well-being.
One of the significant reasons for the truck driver shortage in 2022 is that a driver must be away from home a lot of time. Nowadays, many drivers prefer local work and short-haul assignments near their homes so they can spend more time with their families. The pandemic has also played a part in shifting preferences to spending more time at home alongside loved ones.
As if things weren’t bad already, Canada has recently made it mandatory for drivers entering Canada whilst on the job to be fully vaccinated to avoid a 14-day quarantine and pre-arrival molecular testing. Although this mandate was originally communicated in September of 2021, this effectively puts every cross-border driver out of contention unless they are fully vaccinated which will affect 26,000 of the 160,000 drivers who make regular cross-border trips. The United States is set to follow a similar mandate starting Jan 22, 2022.
There is no single solution to the truck driver shortage due to the complexities involved. Here are a few market reactions and policy options that might help with the trucker shortage:
When there is a shortage of an item or service, the natural market reaction is to raise the price. In this case, the price would be the market rate to hire a truck for a specific shipment which is correlated to drivers’ wage.
Although it’s not always possible or desirable, some flexibility in shipping/delivery dates and shipping/receiving hours takes some stress off the carriers and drivers and allows them to match their capacity in a more optimal way which helps immensely when capacity is as tight as it is. Allowing a reputable carrier to employ vetted partner carriers to handle freight in times of peak demand is another way to be flexible while still getting your freight moved.
Forming closer ties with your preferred carriers is one of the most effective things you can do right now. Truckers have a core base of steady clients with whom they’ve formed long-term relationships, much like any other company. In a market with limited capacity, carriers would frequently reward long-term customers with priority access to their finite capacity.
Other solutions to address the trucker shortage include treating drivers with the respect they deserve, minimizing downtime at loading/unloading, and making the industry more attractive for women to enter.
Although costs associated with the trucking sector are rising, it’s important to remember that not all carriers are overcharging – some are accepting lower profits merely to assist their clients in getting through this challenging and turbulent time. We can solve the trucker shortage and shipping capacity problem if carriers start thinking more strategically and continue to treat their drivers well by offering complete benefits packages with competitive compensation. It will be interesting to see how the truck driver shortage continues to impact the industry in 2022. At Vectra Heavy Haulers, we, alongside our carrier partners are prepared to handle whatever your freight needs may be. Your freight is our priority.