Is there a driver shortage in logistics?
By Komal Puri | October 13, 2022
Is there a driver shortage in logistics? Statistics support that there are not enough truck drivers in the supply chain worldwide. The American Trucking Association (ATA) estimates a current shortage of 80,000 American truck drivers and projects this number will rise to 160,000 by 2030. The truck driver shortage projection is even worse in Eurasia and the United Kingdom.
The International Road Transport Union (IRU), based in Switzerland, estimates the European number of unfilled driver openings rose from 7% to 10% in 2021. The United Kingdom reports a shortage of 100,000 truck drivers and Germany and Poland each project shortages of 80,000 drivers. The number of unfilled driver posts is expected to increase by 15% in Turkey and by 40% in Eurasia and Europe.
What is causing the truck driver shortage and how can we fix it? What is the impact of the truck driver shortage on the supply chain? Is there really a driver shortage or is it the inability of the trucking industry to retain workers by adapting to their changing needs? One thing is certain, the need for more drivers impacts today’s supply chains and it will continue into the future.
Why is there a driver shortage?
Is the truck driver shortage a myth? Throughout the past decade, there has been a shortage of truck drivers worldwide. Lack of drivers has been an issue for years, so why are we feeling it more in 2022 than ever before? With supply chain disruptions and a large growth in e-commerce over the past few years and more freight and goods to move, the driver shortage has been felt more acutely than ever. Why is the trucking industry unable to close the gap of needed drivers?
Truck driver shortage statistics show increasing amounts of drivers leaving the field and not enough new drivers entering the profession. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American commercial truck driver is 55 years old. The workforce is predominantly older, white males moving towards retirement age. As they age out, trucking companies desperately need to replace them and attract new drivers.
It has been challenging to attract younger American drivers to the field due to a federal requirement that drivers be 21 years old to earn an interstate commercial driver license (CDL) for long-haul rigs. The average age of a high school graduate is 18 which leaves three years before they are eligible to earn a CDL. Many graduates who might consider truck driving move on to other professions. Also, during the world health crisis, many driver training schools and commercial driver license testing sites were closed, contributing to the shortage of new drivers ready to become long-haul truckers.
Compensation is another factor in the shortage of truck drivers. The median pay for American big-rig drivers in 2021 was $48,310, or about $23 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The average truck driver salary in the UK is £18,972 per year. Entry level truck driver positions start at £17,556 per year. Experienced senior truck driver positions can receive up to £24,384 per year. Notably, in the U.S. some companies have begun to pay their drivers over $100,000 per year and offer $10,000 cash bonuses to entice new drivers.
Congested Ports and Long Waits
Many truck drivers work up to 70 hours a week, though some of that time is spent waiting for trucks to be loaded or unloaded or waiting at heavily congested ports for containers, wasting time that might be spent driving and moving goods. Optimizing driver workflows and increasing route optimization to manage down time would benefit drivers.
Life on the Road
The trucker lifestyle can be challenging. Newer drivers typically receive long-haul routes that keep them on the road for extended periods, away from homes and families. Some truck drivers may only be home a few times a month and have to learn to live in a truck cabin and shower and eat on the road.
A lack of safe parking spots is a major issue for truckers. Drivers face challenges in finding safe places to park while they rest off the clock. The ATA and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say the nationwide shortage of truck parking has been an issue for America’s truckers for decades, with a wide range of consequences for highway safety and driver health and well-being. A survey by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) found that more than 75% of truck drivers “regularly” experienced “problems with finding safe parking locations when rest was needed.” And 90 percent reported struggling to find safe parking at night.
How Improving Driver Experience Can Help in Driver Retention
To retain current drivers currently in the field, companies need to improve driving experiences for their drivers. Increasing pay is important to retaining drivers along with offering them benefits such as health care and access to 401K retirement programs. Equally important to pay is providing good driver experiences.
Trucking companies who manage driver fleets and optimize their workflows will improve the quality of life for truckers on the road. Current issues drivers face include wasted time at ports due to port congestion and parking issues. Companies that use predictive analytics can reduce driver frustrations and stress about delays by factoring those delays into truck routes.
How Trucking Companies Can Overcome the Driver Shortage
With the need for more drivers, what strategies can trucking companies use to attract new drivers? Today’s truck drivers get paid about 40% less than they did in the 1970s though they are twice as productive. Increasing driver compensation could help attract more drivers to the workforce.
While younger workers are entering the logistics industry, more are going into warehousing than trucking. To entice more workers into driving, the U.S. has begun a pilot project to lower the age for obtaining a CDL. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has partnered with the U.S. Department of Labor and the ATA to start a commercial vehicle driver apprentice program for teenagers. Upon successful completion of the program, 18 to 20-year-olds will be able to drive commercial trucks across state lines, increasing the pool of eligible drivers.
Women makeup 47% of America's workforce but account for only 7% of commercial truck drivers. Sixty percent of female workers have reported feeling unsafe while on the job in 2021. Investing in driver safety and driver quality of life measures, such as increasing the amount of safe parking spaces, would potentially allow more women to enter the trucking industry workforce.
How To Solve the Truck Driver Shortage
In addition to trucking companies working to solve the truck driver shortage, government commissions and agencies can help improve conditions for truckers to help retain drivers and attract new workers.
According to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), there are more than 3 million truckers in the U.S., but only enough parking spaces for 10% of trucks. Europe has a shortage of 100,000 secure parking places to cover its needs, according to a 2019 European Commission estimate. The European Commission has offered funds totalling €100m to develop new rest areas approximately every 100 km along the main routes in the Trans-European Transport Network and to improve security and services at current rest stops.
Increasing the amount of secure parking spaces along with prioritizing driver training and creating career development paths can also help solve the truck driver shortage.
How Dynamic Routing, Route Optimization & Artificial Intelligence (AI) Can Help Truck Drivers
Delivery management platforms such as FarEye can help trucking companies create dynamic and optimized routes and make truck drivers more efficient. Using technology with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) can help drivers avoid potential delays and provide day-to-day operational clarity. Fleet managers aware of real-time traffic and weather conditions can plan and optimize routes to avoid potential delays, contributing to better driver experiences.
FarEye’s delivery management platform can help with driver fatigue by accounting for breaktime hours and fuel stops, helping trucking companies comply with country-specific labor law restrictions and improving driver experiences.
The supply chain depends upon drivers as the backbone of freight movement worldwide. The key to solving driver shortages lies not only in increasing the numbers of drivers but also taking measures to increase the utilization of current drivers for greater logistics efficiency. Using AI and machine learning (ML) technology solutions creates better driver experiences.
Komal Puri is a seasoned professional in the logistics and supply chain industry. As the Senior Director of Marketing and a subject matter expert at FarEye, she has been instrumental in shaping the industry narrative for the past decade. Her expertise and insights have earned her numerous awards and recognition. Komal’s writings reflect her deep understanding of the industry, offering valuable insights and thought leadership.