By its very nature, the entire transportation industry is connected in both direct and subtle ways. A slowdown in oil production can increase fuel prices around the world. A strike at a West Coast port could tie up trade in Asia. Congested, backed up rail lines are causing longer commutes for workers. But one problem has been giving many American companies particularly high levels of anxiety in recent years: truck driver shortages.
And ongoing truck driver shortages would be bad enough if it weren’t for one inconvenient fact — the problem is getting worse.
Already, the American Trucking Associations say America faces truck driver shortages of 35,000 drivers, but by 2023, that number could reach 240,000. In California’s Central Valley, one of the nation’s largest agricultural centers, crucial transportation hubs like Stockton, Modesto, and Merced each have hundreds of open driver positions at any given time.
“The kind of statistics we’re getting back from various groups are that for every five to seven jobs there are available out there, there’s one qualified driver to fill that need,” says Greg Stanfill, a recruiting manager with Northern Refrigerated Transportation.
It’s not just a West Coast problem. From Southern California to Nebraska, from Nebraska to Georgia and the Atlantic seaboard, drivers are in short supply. Reasons for truck driver shortages include strict new regulations which make it harder finding qualified drivers. Although new Third Party Logistics transportation software has helped improved electronic logs of driver performance and behavior, it’s one of the only solutions that’s been proposed for the shortfall.
And because transportation in its various forms makes up 6% of the economy, solutions are desperately needed. During the Recession, companies controlling transportation costs laid off drivers, and those who found more lucrative work elsewhere never returned. Many shipping companies are considering paying for young workers to go to truck driving school to entice new, fresh faces into this vital industry.