Our Semi-Truck Driver Shortage Could Get Even Worse

If you haven’t watched the news, there’s a bit of a supply chain issue going on right now. This includes shortages in the automotive world and beyond because we don’t have enough workers to meet rising demands. One of the weakest links in the chain is the shortage of semi-truck drivers. And if we don’t reverse course soon, making major changes to the industry, things will only get worse.

Semi trucks sitting at rest stop
Semi trucks sitting at rest stop | Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A brief explanation as to why there’s a shortage of semi-truck drivers

When Covid-19 first hit, everybody went into a quarantine that was supposed to last a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, that virus never really went away, and people have adapted to ordering things online rather than in stores. What that means is the demands on semi-truck drivers have only increased.

But there’s more to the issue than just Covid-19, it’s the industry itself. If you wanted to get a job as a semi-truck driver, there’s no doubt you’d be hired in a heartbeat. But the working conditions are subpar, to say the least. And for the time you’re spending away from home and on the road, it’s hard to strike a work-life balance (unless you’re alright with being alone an awful lot).

On top of all that, the demographics of truck drivers are in the danger zone. The average age of a semi-truck driver according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the average age of truck drivers is 55 years old. Worse still, the average age of new truck drivers is 35. And of the truck drivers on the road, 92% of them are male.

In a few years, many of these truckers will retire. And if new, younger hires don’t apply soon, things could get a lot worse in the years to come.

How could the shortage get worse as time goes on?

Semi truck driving on highway
Semi truck driving on highway | Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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Here’s an alarming statistic for you: 68% of all freight shipped in the US is done so on the highway, using interstate semi-truck drivers. But with the industry dwindling, and the shortage growing, we’ll see fewer drivers and longer delays than we’re already seeing. So how bad is it?

As of right now, it’s said that we have a shortage of 80,000 semi-truck drivers. But in the next 10 years, that number could double to 160,000. And if the shortage continues to worsen, there will be adverse consequences. Yes, delivery times will take longer, but it goes beyond that.

For starters, the drivers that do stick it out would be grossly overworked. And as of right now, they’re already underpaid. Imagine being away from home for two weeks straight, and then only being able to come home for 48 hours before you hit the road again. That’s what many semi-truck drivers go through every day. So unless they’re making a fair salary, they’re essentially giving up every bit of their lives for the job.

It’s no wonder the turnover rate in the trucking industry is so high. But there are steps companies can take to fix the problem. All they have to do is take them.

What can be done to fix the semi-truck driving industry?

Semi trucks driving on highway
Semi trucks driving on highway | David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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The key solution to all of this is to pay truck drivers more. And considering trucking companies can easily short truck drivers of millions of dollars in wages according to Smart Trucking, that’s not exactly a hard task to achieve. And being a truck driver isn’t a lucrative job because it’s less of a job and more of a lifestyle. If you’re like me, you have a life outside of work, you don’t want your life to become work.

So increasing pay and lowering time on the road are two good places to start. After all, there isn’t a shortage of local truck drivers because they get to be home every night. However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. In order to increase the number of truckers on the road, you need to shift the demographic.

Currently, you have to be 21 years old in order to become a truck driver, which requires going to trade school. However, there are so many other trades, like electrician or plumber, that one can start working toward at 18 years old. So by the time most people are eligible to become truckers, they’ve found a better gig.

The entire industry itself needs to step up and make the job more appealing if they want this shortage to go away. But chances are, they don’t. The fewer truck drivers they have to pay, the better, right? And billionaire CEOs of major trucking companies couldn’t care less if your package is delivered on time, no matter how important it may be.

This semi-truck driver shortage is going to be an ongoing problem for years to come. I wish I had a more chipper conclusion, but in truth, I don’t. We’re looking at a supply chain issue like no other. And if trucking companies don’t make the job more lucrative (there’s more to it than just money), things aren’t going to get better.

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