Debates are occurring among companies in the logistics sector, whether there is a shortage of drivers for hauling shipments around the country. There is a shortage according to ATA and other logistic associations around the country. Companies such as carriers, brokers, and 3PLs are also debating if the perceived shortage is good for their businesses. In fact, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimate that 2017 saw its most significant driver shortfall to date, and could reach 174,000 unfilled driver positions by 2026. According to a recent study, there was only one truck available for every 12 loads needing to be shipped at the start of 2018, which is the lowest ratio since 2005. Like everything else, shipping has become a commodity. However, the scarcity of qualified drivers prevents the prices from plummeting to the proverbial bottom.
Operating rates for transporting goods are going up and will continue to do so as long as we have a strong labor market, and it is steadily increasing at 3% with a healthy 4.1% unemployment rate. Although the average starting wages for truckers have increased to $51,000 annually according to Forbes, it still does not account for the significant living expenses incurred by limited resources such as exorbitantly priced truck stops and gas stations. Some claim that the stricter trucker hiring standards is also a culprit, but there are bigger culprits to the shortage. The new requirements for shipping goods are centered on safety for the driver and the general public. It is also meant to protect the 3PLs and carriers by requiring minimum levels of insurance. With significant tax cuts for companies, the industry expects to see an increase in the number of shipments. The other big factor is the aging truck driver population. The average age of drivers is currently 55 years old according to the Census Bureau, and since the turnover rate of new drivers is about 90%, there are not enough people successfully entering this skilled blue-collar industry. The aging labor force accounts for the overall salary of a truck driver is $41,000/year which is below the current starting salary.
In conclusion, the logistics industry is experiencing a perfect storm that the ATA has warned about since 2005. The trucker shortage is a combination of the older workforce, new regulations, arguably underpaid labor force, and lack of younger people entering the industry. According to the ATA, the shortage of drivers is a good thing for the logistics industry. All economists feel that levels of the supply chain, even the end consumer need to reassess the need for low transportation prices versus the need to offer adequate compensation to the labor force. Perhaps this will accelerate the ability to use driverless trucks. Do you agree?