Seasoned Truckers Share Their Solutions to the Semi-Truck Driver Shortage

There’s a shortage of everything these days, including a shortage of semi-truck drivers. And as America continues to consume more and more, the amount of strain on the supply chain continues to worsen. But seasoned truck drivers recently shared some insights on how the industry could fill the gaps. After all, our current level of consumption is unsustainable, and truck drivers are facing the bulk of the negative impacts.

Semi-truck driving down road
Semi-truck driving down road | Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Improve the work conditions pay of semi-truck drivers

In truth, there isn’t a shortage of drivers, but rather a shortage of drivers who want to take trucking jobs. This is the case for many underappreciated industries, including the restaurant business. But one of the reasons they’re underappreciated is that the employees are overworked and the pay is peanuts.

This is especially true for non-union truck drivers (97% of all truck drivers) who are paid by the mile rather than the hour. Because of this, truckers are encouraged to drive as long and as fast as possible. This endangers everyone on the road, but that’s how truckers earn their keep.

On top of that, federal law allows for truckers to drive 11 hours per day, and a total of 77 hours per seven-day period. Not only is that more than the traditional 40-hour workweek, but it means many truckers don’t get weekends off. In fact, many on-the-road (long-distance) trucking companies have their drivers working for two weeks, then giving them only two days off.

If trucking companies operated on a short distance philosophy, where one driver takes a semi-truck across a few state lines, then hands it off to another truck driver, it would allow truckers to get back home and rest.

The job of a semi-truck driver isn’t all that appealing, even to some truck drivers. But there are still plenty of people who would take these jobs, especially those looking for American citizenship.

Improve immigration reform to hire truckers from abroad

Semi-truck driving down highway
Semi-truck driving down highway | David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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Many American semi-truck drivers who already have their CDL licenses don’t want to take long-distance trucking jobs, since they’re often away from home and rarely get time off. But there are plenty of workers who wouldn’t mind if these jobs served as a clear path to American citizenship.

Many opposed to this say that anyone on a work visa is taking someone else’s job. But for the truck driving industry, nobody else is filling them. And with work visas that serve as a path to citizenship, rather than just a placeholder, you could recruit thousands of people to help fix the supply chain.

Though, there’s one more crucial aspect that larger trucking companies should consider as a method to fill in the gaps. If they’re not willing to hire more workers, they should increase their fleet of electric trucks.

Use autonomous semi-trucks to fill in the gaps

Tesla Semi electric self-driving semi-truck
Tesla Semi electric self-driving semi-truck | Tesla

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Autonomous semi-trucks, such as the Tesla Semi, might be the most promising answer to the truck driver shortage. They can operate around the clock, and don’t need to stop for rests (just to recharge). And they can work when other semi-truck drivers can’t.

Many worry that autonomous vehicles will, eventually, outsource the American truck driver. But in reality, truck drivers and autonomous trucks would be working together. For example, a trucker may be able to sleep while the semi-truck pilots itself. Or an autonomous semi-truck could drive through major cities at different times to avoid rush hour, and the driver can pick up from there.

The New York Times reached out to their readers, who explained that current solutions to the truck driver shortage posed by trucking companies are to hire more younger drivers. And while that might solve a part of the problem, there’s more to it than just training more drivers. The truck driver turnover is remarkably high, especially due to the conditions and dangers of the job. But by making the position more lucrative, increasing the pay, and providing opportunities for those who need them most, the truck driver shortage can be conquered.

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