Driver Shortage: What’s The Truth?

890,000 new drivers!

According to a report from the American Trucking Association (ATA), that’s how many commercial drivers will need to be hired between 2015 and 2025 to counter the “driver shortage” that is currently affecting our industry.

The trucking industry, as we all know, is a complex system of employees, companies, supplies, fuel prices, consumer demand, and countless other variables. There are thousands of factors that have an impact, large and small, on the entire process, so making clear, fully informed decisions on how to improve the industry, let alone your own company, can be an immense challenge.

The first step is knowledge. Instead of trying to solve the driver shortage once and for all, let’s take a simple look at the numbers. Let’s cut through the rumors and the doomsday predictions and look at the hard facts. Maybe with a clear vision of where we are and where we are going, we can take small steps towards complete improvement.

current status on driver shortage for the trucking industryThe Current Numbers

The ATA report, which provides the latest and most authoritative numbers, predicted a total driver shortage of just under 50,000 by the end of 2017. If the trends identified in the report hold, by 2025, there will be a shortage of nearly 174,000 drivers.

This report, which only looks at the expected supply of drivers and the expected demand while ignoring speculative factors like future regulations, claims that replacing retiring drivers will be the most significant concern, accounting for 45 percent of new openings, while industry growth will account for 33 percent.

A Large Portion of Truck Drivers are Nearing Retirement Age

According to a 2014 study of drivers’ ages conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute, nearly 30 percent of trucking employees are in the age category of 45 to 54. Another 20 percent are in the range of 55 to 64. This means that roughly half of all trucking employees are between the ages of 45 and 64; that’s a major portion of the employee pool that will be retiring in the next few decades.

Consider another finding of the study: over 6 percent of trucking employees are 65 or older, while only 5 percent are 20 to 24 years old. This makes trucking the only industry in the study that has more 65-or-older employees than 20 to 24-year-olds.

Also, people between the ages of 25 through 44 combine for roughly 40 percent of trucking industry employees, meaning there are more people in our industry above 45 than below.

So what do these numbers mean? They demonstrate that at current trends, there will be many experienced truckers leaving the industry due to retirement, while the current trend of youthful up-and-comers won’t be enough to fill their empty seats.

Quality of Life Causing Drivers to Quit

It’s been speculated for years that part of the problem is truckers leaving for the quality of life. There is strong evidence to back up this speculation. As truckinginfo.com has reported, HireRight, a recruitment and retention services, found that 41 percent of drivers who leave the industry are leaving to spend more time at home, while 21 percent are leaving due to health issues. According to their findings, nearly 45 percent of respondents said their fleet does not offer a wellness program, which could significantly reduce truckers leaving the industry.

What Can Be Done to Fight the Driver Shortage?

There are many speculative solutions to the problem, and they all seem to address one aspect of the issue of another. However, it appears that one particular segment of the population could be targeted to significantly increase the number of drivers: women.

According to the report on the driver shortage by the American Trucking Association, women make up 47 percent of the overall American workforce. However, they only make up about 6 percent of the commercial driving workforce. Imagine the vast pool of talent that is available if the trucking industry (or your company) made more effort to recruit, train, and hire female drivers.

Retention seems to be one of the best safeguards against a driver shortage, but while you can take steps to keep people from quitting or leaving for another opportunity, you can’t keep them from retiring. Therefore, you should also revisit your recruitment and hiring practices to find the best candidates for your company.


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