Transportation Industry Struggles with Growing Driver Shortage

While the U.S. Census Bureau shows the number of truckers at an all-time high in of 3.5 million drivers in 2017, the last year for which information is available,  American Trucking Association’s Chief Economist, Bob Costello argues that driver shortages remain an issue.  The American Transportation Research Institute ranks driver shortages as the number one issue in their 2018 study of trucking companies.  

The American Trucking Association estimates that the transportation industry currently has a shortage of at least 50,000 drivers and foresees that number increasing unless actions are taken.  Mr. Costello was recently quoted in an article in Transport Topics as saying “It’s not that the number of truck drivers has been in a constant decline. It’s just that it’s not growing enough to match up with what has been needed with demand”.   

A bipartisan effort has reintroduced legislation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that may alleviate some of the driver shortage in the future.  The Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act is aimed at changing federal law to allow commercial driver’s license holders under the age of 21 to transport interstate commerce.  If passed the DRIVE-Safe Act would establish an apprenticeship program for CDL holders as young 18.  The program would institutionalize rigorous safety standards with performance benchmarks.  The drivers would have to complete at least 400 hours on-duty time and an additional 240 hours with an experienced driver in the cab.  All trucks used in the training program would be equipped with safety technology that would include active braking collision systems, a video event-capture system, and a speed governor set at 65 miles per hour or below.  These safety technologies will help monitor the performance of the younger drivers to ensure they are meeting safety standards.

According to an analysis from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the driver shortage is likely to become considerably worse in the coming years as the aging workforce retires. The DRIVE – Safe Act, if passed, would help the trucking industry to attract younger drivers that are often lost to other professions because of the lack of opportunity before they turn 21 years old.


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