semi truck parking

How Are Driver Shortages Affecting Our Industry?

By Andrew Weed

The next time a large semi pulls in front of you on the highway, you may want to think twice before you honk the horn.

There are simply not enough truck drivers to handle all the goods being shipped today. This shortage of drivers affects every single one of us, including those of us in the printing, mailing and envelope industry.

The Driver Shortage Challenge

Trucks are the most common form of transportation used to distribute goods in the United States. Fewer of them on the road poses a challenge to your business and for your ability to move products efficiently and timely, and it’s not expected to improve anytime soon.

Currently, the driver shortage is estimated to be around 50,000 drivers and is expected to grow at a rate of 4% per year from now until 2045. According to the American Trucking Association, our country could be short a staggering 174,000 drivers in 2026 if the trend continues.

Why are Driver Shortages an Issue?

  1. The economy is good. Demand for transportation has never been stronger, especially with the acceleration of e-commerce from Amazon and other players.
  2. Unemployment rates are at the lowest point they’ve been in decades. The ability to attract and retain drivers who are willing to endure long days away from home has never been tougher. Moreover, opportunities for training and recruitment are declining. The number of programs for qualified drivers is staggeringly small – only 28.8% of schools offer truck driving training programs.
  3. The current truck driving population is rapidly aging. According to a study from the American Transportation Research Institute (ARTI), 55.5% of all drivers are over 45 years of age. This is a dramatic increase since 1994. The number of older drivers far exceeds the number of young drivers entering the profession, and this problem will only get worse in the coming years.

Why is This Coming to a Head?

Electronic-logging devices (ELDs) were introduced in 2004 as a safety measure to limit the amount of time drivers could log in a day. In April 2018, monitoring the use of ELDs became a critical tool for proper compliance as they were loosely monitored up to that point.

This enforcement of ELDs has dramatically affected the amount of time drivers can log in a day, and consequently, reduced time on the road affects drivers’ income as they are generally paid by the number of miles driven on the road.

Things You Can Do to Help: Become a Shipper of Choice

  1. Plan ahead — Contact your trucking partner well in advance to allow them adequate time to schedule a proper solution for your transportation needs.
  2. Be respectful — Show courtesy to the drivers who show up at your dock to pick up a load. Be ready for them and minimize their wait time, as idle time is tracked by the ELDs. Get them loaded and unloaded as quickly as possible.
  3. Be predictable — When possible, try to establish regular, predictable loads. The more a driver understands the frequency of his or her pick up opportunities, the more likely he or she is to partner with you for your shipping needs. Ship full loads when possible because it's more efficient for the driver and minimizes loss or damage.

Tension has always worked hard to cultivate positive relationships with our suppliers, freight included. For more ideas and information on how to become a shipper of choice, contact us.

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