ATA Reports Trucker Shortage 80,000 Strong
The American Trucking Association (ATA) released a report on October 25th, 2021 detailing the current situation of the so-called “trucker shortage”. This number is based on the difference in total employment and the number that would be needed to meet freight demand, including a certain backlog at twin Californian ports that has been making the news lately.
We call it the “trucker shortage” with quotation marks around it because anyone with a basic understanding of economics can tell you that any employee shortage is resolved with higher pay. The ATA says the problem is larger than just writing a check to drivers, however, as recently pay has been increasing five times faster than it has on average for truckers.
The report can be read on the relevant webpage. Here is a summary, with our commentary, on the points the ATA mentions.
- The average age of truck drivers is relatively high and increasing. While this is true, the rate at which it is increasing, about .1 years per year, means this phenomenon is slow. It will be decades before the average age of truck drivers is enough to warrant concern, but by then we may have fully autonomous vehicles.
- Only 7% of drivers are women (ATA). Tapping into this demographic may yield enough drivers on its own to solve the trucker shortage.
- The proliferation of marijuana legalization in states is making it harder to become a trucker. While driving with CBD is legal, THC is not, and use of CBD products is not a suitable defense for the detection of THC.
- Interstate trucking is illegal for those under 21. While some people may be against the idea of a younger trucker traveling across the entire continent, a young man from Rhode Island has no realistic chance of becoming a truck driver until he is 21.
- Driver schools have trained far fewer drivers since 2020. This is thanks to COVID-19.
- Lifestyle issues. Truckers can be gone from home for weeks at a time. This is why regional hauling has not had as much of a strain finding drivers, compared to long-haul.
- Infrastructure issues. This is a stretch, but we at TopMark Funding can see it. Nobody signed up to become a truck driver to be stuck in traffic.
- Barriers to entry. Being hired on as a company driver can require background checks, interviews, and more.
ATA estimates that the shortage will grow to 160,000 by 2030, thanks to expected freight growth, and also estimates that by 2030 1,000,000 drivers will exit the market by way of retiring. If this is true, the average age of drivers is about to become much lower, as there are currently about 1.5 million truckers in the workforce.
If there were one silver bullet to the driver shortage, it would be destigmatizing trucking as a masculine job. With so few women drivers, there is untapped potential in recruiting them.
This is unlikely to change, however, and trucking will still be known as the rough and tough job we know and love.
Our proposed solution would be to allow truck drivers under 21 to travel in a 500-mile radius from company headquarters. This would permit young truckers from smaller states to fulfill deliveries rather than being cast out of the market outright, while still not letting them run rampant. Once they get a taste of the freedom that comes with the open road, they may just be set for life.
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