Truck Driver Shortage Again Causing Nationwide Concern

by Jana Ritter - Published: 5/05/2014

The US is again feeling the impact of a shortage of qualified truck drivers and it’s leaving many trucking companies concerned for their future. While some say the shortage is due to the numbers of aging drivers now turning in their keys and heading down the road of retirement, others say its also combined with the fact that its simply more difficult to find new drivers these days.

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Either way, the shortage could lead to a major issue for the economy as the American Trucking Association (ATA) reports that 70 percent of all freight product moved in the U.S. is done on the road. In order to keep up with the current demand, the ATA estimated that an average of 96,000 drivers will need to be hired nationally every year until 2022.

In a new survey conducted by CK Commercial Vehicle Research (CKCVR), the results also revealed the driver shortage is too prevalent and will likely impact future vehicle purchases. CKCVR has been surveying fleets for more than 10 years and published their results in the Q2 2014 Fleet Sentiment report where current environments at trucking fleets were examined. Many fleets reported that because of their inability to recruit and retain drivers, they could not grow and add equipment. The survey also found a tight capacity situation with high utilization; no trucks parked for lack of work and on the whole, a positive view of business conditions. In addition, CKCVR’s FSR buying index for Q2 (101.8) was down from Q1 but slightly above the same quarter last year.

Larry Vanderwal, has been a truck driver on the road for the past 27 years and believes the industry could be in for an interesting ride as they attempt to fill experienced positions with new drivers. “I think the industry is getting older, it’s harder to find drivers anymore” he says, “I don’t know what the deal is we just can’t find enough help anymore.”

What is also apparent is that the new drivers they are finding tend to be young 20-something, fresh on the road like Ben Kubalak. Kubalak has only been driving for 6 months and says the trend of folks stepping away from the business is due to more than just old age. “The winter was rough,” Kubalak says, “I could see that pushing a lot of people away from this job because you wouldn’t want a bad accident under your belt.”

Being away from family and friends is another reason folks decide to hang up their keys.

Spending a life on the road with the demanding hours the industry can bring is tough, and it’s something both Vanderwal and Kubalak say is not for everyone. But if it is something you can handle, truck driving offers a lot of benefits that make it a worthwhile profession for the many that do it. In addition to the feeling of freedom and adventure of traveling the landscape and seeing so many different places along the way, the driver shortage is driving up the earning potential more and more.