According to a recent study by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the U.S. is experiencing a deficit of approximately 30,000 truck drivers. Currently, freight demand is higher than in 2013, and if that trend continues, transportation costs may rise steeply as trucking companies increase wages and perks to retain and recruit drivers. The American Trucking Associations For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index shows an rise in freight demand of 1.6 percent in August from the previous month and 4.5 percent year-over-year. The driver shortage is seen as a primary reason for domestic transportation costs rising at a faster pace in 2014.
Among the reasons for the increasing shortage are high personnel turnover and comparatively low pay. Wages paid to drivers have increased much more slowly than the average U.S. salary in other areas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Demographic changes are also compounding the problem. Fewer young people are interested in getting into the profession partially due to the salary issue. The average truck driver is 55, and more drivers are retiring. Not enough younger workers are signing up, forcing companies like Werner, Celadon Group and J B Hunt Transport Services to offer signing bonuses to new drivers. “In my opinion, we are going to see a shift in how trucking companies view their driver population,” said Mike Regan, chief of relationship development at TranzAct Technologies and advocacy chair for shipper group NASSTRAC. “When you have a situation where your inventory gets up and walks out the door every day, that situation needs to change.” Swift Transportation, the nation’s largest truckload carrier has announced that they will be raising their pay scale to drivers sometime this quarter in an effort to retain current drivers and attract new drivers to their company. The increase will be the largest in the company’s history, according to Richard Stocking, president and chief operating officer of the $4 billion company.
Although the trucking industry reported a 2.3% growth year over year in September, the shortage is not expected to abate anytime soon. The rise in freight demand will keep pressure on within the industry to recruit and train drivers. According to DAT Solutions, which provides data to the transport sector, the driver shortage helped push the rate per mile for freight shipped on long-term contracts up 8 per cent on the year in August, to around US$1.80 a mile. Rates in the spot market, where customers move freight at short notice, rose 14 per cent to US$1.92. A recent analysis from Business Insider finds that we aren’t producing nearly enough new drivers to fill all the needed seats. The shortfall could grow to around 240,000 drivers by 2020 if it is not addressed, the ATA said.
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