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US Trucking Industry Now Short 80,000 Drivers: ATA

The US trucking industry needs at least 80,000 drivers – a number that could double by 2030.

Rising freight volumes rise, accelerated retirements because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and new drivers entering the industry slow to emerge due of backlogs in training and obtaining commercial driver licenses, are all contributors to the increasing driver shortage, reports Transport Topics.

“We will be short … just over 80,000 drivers, and to be clear that is the difference between the number of drivers we have out hauling freight and the number that we ideally need to haul freight,” says American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello. “When you look at the spot market and truckload, freight has gone up enough, and essentially the number of drivers this year, across the board is flat.”

Costello said the driver shortage improved in 2019 as the industry attracted more drivers and freight levels remained stable. However, with the current freight demand, the need has jumped by 30% over 2020 levels.

“This is somewhat pandemic-related; we didn’t train enough drivers,” he said. “It’s the traditional things we’ve been talking about for the last two decades. It’s the high average age of drivers, not enough females, lifestyle, and then you throw in some things that have exacerbated it.”

The latest driver shortage numbers come when the problems with the nation’s supply chain have gotten the attention of the White House and industry officials across the country. Last week President Joe Biden met with a wide variety of transportation and supply chain representatives. It was announced two of the nation’s busiest ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach, would soon begin 24/7 operations. However, industry officials said one of the challenges they will face by expanding hours will be finding enough truck drivers.

Costello said one area of trucking that has a more significant problem attracting drivers is the longhaul sector. Still, he said more companies realize the challenges of recruiting drivers who haul freight more than 400 miles per day. In some cases, those companies are modifying schedules to reduce the long distances some drivers cover regularly.

“We are attracting drivers to this industry; let me be clear,” Costello said. “We are by no means suggesting otherwise. And at its core, this is an over-the-road, for-hire truckload problem. That’s the group even though this number is for everybody, and it’s simply the fact that, over time, the driver pool is not going up as fast as freight is going up.”

According to ATA data, if nothing is done, the industry’s shortage will worsen to 160,000 drivers by 2030. The industry needs an estimated 1 million drivers, as many in the current driver fleet will retire over the next 10 years.

The situation is hardly different, relatively speaking, in Canada — as there are currently close to 20,000 truck driver job vacancies. According to projections from Trucking HR Canada, the country needs to hire about 17,230 new truck drivers per year up until 2025 to keep up with demand.

Full story here.

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