The Future of Trucking Jobs
Truck Driver Shortage
The trucking industry is the backbone of the American economy, considering that a staggering 80% of all freight tonnage in US is at some point being moved on trucks [four times as much as air (8%), pipeline (6%), rail (4%), and water (2%) combined]. Without the truck driving industry and our truck drivers, the economy would see a significant slowdown, if not simply come to a standstill. According to statistics posted by the American Trucking Associations in the US, “there are 10.4 billion tons of freight being moved annually, which requires over 3.6 million heavy-duty Class 8 trucks and over 3.5 million truck drivers.” It also takes over 38 billion gallons of diesel fuel to move all of that freight.
Focusing in on the people employed by the trucking industry, we’re looking at a whopping 7.1 million people, which is roughly 6% of the US working population. As mentioned before, 3.5 million of these jobs represent truck driving jobs. Still, in today’s economy, these numbers are insufficient. Every year we need more and more drivers. At the end of 2017 we were looking at a shortage of an estimated 50,000 truckers.
Why is it happening?
The lifestyle and long hours are especially hard, being away from home for extended amounts of time is a major shortfall of the job and it can take a toll on most people. Living on the road and basically out of a suitcase is not making the job any more attractive. The rest of us take for granted things such as eating hot meals daily, being more active, spending time with friends and family, not having to rely on truck stops for taking a shower, and the list can go on and on. It’s sacrificing comfort and a general well-being most of us enjoy daily, all for a paycheck.
Then the paycheck must really be worth it. Some experts would say not exactly. In 2016, according to analyst Gordon Klemp, president of National Transportation Institute, pay for truck drivers has failed to keep up with inflation since 1980, truckers’ wages falling by nearly a third.
Driver Pay vs. U.S. Consumer Price Index
(source: Bureau Labor Statistics)
He also noted that both owner operator and company driver pay have been rising since 2013 and also that fleets are trying to use various methods to incentivize in order to minimize turnover.
Another main cause of the shortage is the aging fleet of truck drivers. The demographics of drivers are people in their late 40’s – 50’s. There is not that much interest in truck driving jobs amongst the younger generations. The trucking industry has not made strides in attracting younger people, convincing them truck driving is a good career. Lane Jacobson, President of the Southern Alberta Truck Exposition Association made a very good point in outlining that trucking is not recognized as a trade, there’s no student loans or government training available.
Companies will have to learn to incentivize, attract the millennial generation and pave the way for a continuous supply of trucking workforce.
Truck driving is a dangerous occupation. Truck drivers risk their lives every day, remember to give them some space and don’t tailgate!