Truck driver shortage expected to get worse, industry report states
The trucking industry is facing a shortage of drivers and the problem is expected to get worse in the coming years.
According to the most recent study by the American Trucking Association, the median salary for a truck driver was more than $53,000, a $7,000 increase from the Association’s last study in 2013.
Still, it appears that is not enough and drivers are hard to find.
David Moreno knows first hand the tough life of a trucker. Moreno drove a semi-truck for five years before he purchased his own semi-truck and became an owner-operator.
Moreno says the hundreds of miles on the road a day and all the fast food along the way takes a toll on a trucker’s health. “Your body is just so exhausted,” Moreno said. “I developed sleep apnea and I became pre-diabetic. You have to be willing to accept that lifestyle and that’s just what it is, it’s a lifestyle.”
A report by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) found that the truck driver shortage is getting worse. In a 2017 study, the ATA estimates that by 2026 the shortage could swell to more than 174,000.
Lifestyle and demographics are just some of the reasons for the shortage according to the report.
The median age for a truck driver is 49 and with older drivers retiring or near retirement, companies are having a hard time recruiting younger drivers.
ABC-7 spoke with Roger Masters, a truck driver from Tennessee who’s been making a living driving a semi-truck for more than 25 years. Masters admits that the life of a truck driver is not for everyone and it’s not a life he would want for his own children.
“My oldest son, I missed the first 16 years of his life,” Masters said. “For the most part – trucking – I’ve advised all of my kids and grandkids, not to get in it.”
Because trucking companies are in need of drivers many companies are raising their wages, that means companies must also raise prices for their customers and that in turn means retailers will likely raise prices for consumers.
Jack Werner is the Program Director for commercial driver training at Western Tech. “There’s nothing that we touch that isn’t moved by trucks,” Werner said.
Werner says Western Tech hasn’t had any problems getting students enrolled in the truck driver training program, but that it takes a certain type of person to get behind the wheel of a semi-truck.
“We get people prepared for this industry by making sure that they know what they’re getting into,” Werner said. “The old mindset that truck driving is a hardworking, gritty type job, there is some of that but the job has changed considerably and it’s much more comfortable.”
As a way to recruit more truck drivers, there’s been talk of lowering the driving age from 21 to 18, but some truckers don’t see that as the right solution.
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“From what I see with the millennials, they want life handed to them and you’re not going to get life handed to you on this road,” Masters said.
“Truck driving is no joke. You’re driving 80,000 pounds of machinery and you really have to be committed to this,” Moreno said.
Another solution according to the ADA could be self-driving semi-trucks. The association sees autonomous trucks as having a positive impact on the driver shortage by making the job less stressful and with the sophisticated technology, it believes it may attract younger people to truck driving.
However, some see the self-driving semi-trucks as a deterrent, that could be adding to the truck driver shortage.
“The industry is basically telling the human element, ‘sooner or later you’re not wanted,'” Moreno said. “And the trucking industry feels that and is like ‘why should I even invest in something like this if in 5 or 6 years they’re going to try and obsolete my job?”
But Werner sees the opposite outcome because he believes that with the advancement in technology, more education will be needed and truck drivers as well.
“Will we see that in our lifetime? Oh, I’m sure we will,” Werner said. “Are we going to see that in the next 20 years? Probably not, so we still need a human being in control of that vehicle.”
To read the report from the American Trucking Associations, CLICK HERE.