USA Facing a Truck Driver Shortage?
Truck drivers form the backbone of the transportation industry in the entire world. A country may have the best roadways, ships and port systems and even air freight delivery systems in place but trucks and truck drivers will be required to transport the goods from the point of delivery to the point of use or retail sale. As a result, the truckers are always going to be in high demand to transport goods from one location to another. On an average, more than 3.5 million truckers are employed in the USA on short haul and long haul transportation runs and the demand for trained truckers is expected to increase.
Ever thought of becoming a Truck Driver?
Although truckers are in high demand, the job itself is considered to be quite down-market. Very few people are interested in becoming truck drivers and the American Trucking Association says that the trucking industry is facing a severe shortage of trained and experienced truckers. In the year 2011, there was a demand for more than 200,000 long haul drivers and this demand is expected to double in the coming decade. This shortage is not apparent at present but if it continues, it could cause delays in nearly every industry in the USA along with increased freight rates and higher food and goods prices. According to the US Department of Transportation, more than 2 million truck driving positions will be vacant by the year 2018 as aging truckers retire. The average age of the current generation of truckers is about 51 and when they retire, the trucking industry is going to be severely hit with a sudden shortage of trained truckers.
What is the reason for this shortage? Why are people not interested in becoming truck drivers?
There are currently more than 2 million truck driving positions that are vacant in the USA for trained truckers. However, the trucking profession itself is filled with complications. These complications may make it difficult for an interested candidate to complete the course and start working as a trucker. A few of the immediate drawbacks that are apparent in the trucking profession are as follows:
• Cost of the course – Candidates who are interested in joining the course have to complete a four-week class. The course itself costs about $4000 to about $6000 which can be quite expensive.
• CDL of the Commercial Driver’s License – After passing the course, candidates have to apply for the CDL depending on the type of truck they are planning to drive. The CDL exam is quite strict with a skills test that involves a pre-trip inspection and a driving test. After the practical test, this is followed with a knowledge or theory exam that covers mechanical and commercial driving rules. Along with these CDL exams, the student has to pass a medical exam that will grade the student for the license. The CDL and the medical exam are difficult to pass and many candidates do not pass the exam. On an average, 18 out of every 30 candidates do not pass the training course and the CDL exam.
• Regulations – In the last decade, federal regulations have tightened resulting in large trucking companies being very careful about the candidates they hire. For example, most companies will only hire drivers with clean driving records and personal histories. This automatically cuts down the pool of eligible candidates for the jobs. Apart from driving histories, insurance companies also require national trucking companies to hire candidates with a certain amount of experience. As a result, fresh candidates are forced to work with bigger companies that will automatically make the person work more and for lower wages.
• Long Trips – Unfortunately, the sheer demand for Trained Truckers is the same aspect of the job that most new truckers don’t like. Due to the shortage of drivers, new drivers have to pay their dues in the form of longer Traveling times and longer distances. This results in a very difficult time adjusting to the job. New drivers have families and they want to have a weekend off but stricter regulations have made it mandatory for new drivers to get as much as experience as possible. Most Trucking companies will only accept drivers who are 23 years and over and with at least three years of driving experience. For more experience, it is also necessary for them to work longer hours. As a result, more than 30% of the new drivers who join the profession drop out and change professions in the first year itself. However, newer federal safety regulations have decreased the amount of time that a driver can spend on the road.
• Wages – Salaries are one of the reasons why candidates are not willing to join the trucking profession. Truckers are paid in a variety of methods. Usually, the more experienced the driver, the higher the salary. Most truck drivers get paid about 35 cents per mile. This rate may also depend on the method of payment offered by the company. On an average, truckers who don’t own their rigs may average salaries of $40,000. However, if they work for 70 hours or more per week, the rates may increase. These salaries are seriously limited by several factors. Raising the salaries will automatically mean higher freight rates. These rates are transferred to manufacturers and eventually to the consumer resulting in higher rates all around. With experience and clean driving records, companies are willing to pay as much as $70,000 – $90,000 per year. $850 a week divided by 70 hours of work equals $12 an hour on average. Truckers give there life away for this low salary.
• Health and safety concerns – Truckers have to drive long distances and this can aggravate health problems. Truckers may also suffer from sleep apnea, asthma, high blood pressure, obesity and drug addiction. Safety is also a primary concern as truckers do have a higher recorded history of fatalities as compared to any other profession. Accidents, crime, hijacking, kidnapping may also occur in isolated areas of the truckers route resulting in serious problems.
Although there is a higher demand for trained truckers, stricter federal regulations and insurance regulations have resulted in several truckers being forced to take lower paying jobs.