Keep it moving: How trucking can address its driver shortage dilemma

JUN 07, 2021
Sid Gaitonde - Bulk Transporter

It is no surprise to anyone that in 2020, tank truck drivers were listed as key essential workers during the pandemic.

The country realized on lockdown it simply can’t function without truckers. Everyone remembers the toilet paper shortages and delayed Amazon deliveries, but we also learned of the importance of liquid tank carriers in delivering hand sanitizer, cleaning chemicals and other products needed to fight the coronavirus. And now more people understand the critical nature of the supply chain, and how much the trucking industry means to the United States.

Yet, despite the realization that truck drivers are needed more than ever, there still is a national shortage. America’s truck driver shortage isn’t a new phenomenon, but it has certainly intensified in recent years. At the end of 2017, the trucking industry needed a record 50,000 new drivers to keep up with demand—and the gap hasn’t really closed that much over the last four years. In fact, it actually has widened. In 2018, the trucking industry was short nearly 61,000 drivers, up nearly 20% from 2017 according to a 2019 report by the American Trucking Associations (ATA). And, according to the ATA, if these trends continue, we could see the shortage continue to grow to a deficient of over 160,000 drivers by 2028.

One of the reasons for the shortage, according to the ATA, is that workforce is aging. The average age of a truck driver is 55 years old, and many drivers opted for early retirement in the last year due to the pandemic, or chose to pursue alternative careers outside of trucking due to COVID-19-related health concerns.

This further compounded the workforce shortage. There are simply not enough qualified, younger drivers to replace those who are leaving the profession. Over the next decade, the trucking industry has said they will need to hire more than 1 million new drivers.

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