August 21, 2023

The trucking industry has coped with a relentless driver shortage throughout the past decade. According to the latest report from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the truck driver shortage ranks as the trucking industry’s second-highest concern behind fuel. Before 2022, the driver shortage was the No. 1 concern for five years before fleet fuel costs knocked it from the 2022 top spot.

The American Trucking Association estimates that the U.S. trucking industry is short 78,000 truck drivers, and the shortage could balloon to 160,000 by 2030. The severity of the truck driver shortage in 2022 has motivated major companies like Walmart to pay their private fleet drivers $100,000 for the first year of employment. This salary offer is 100% more than the 2021 median average pay for big rig drivers.

The industry can avoid a more severe driver deficit by hiring about 1.2 million new truck drivers to replace drivers who are leaving the industry due to retirement or other reasons. Otherwise, the escalating driver shortage could severely impact the future of the trucking industry and the entire U.S. economy with decreased GDP, supply chain shortages, high consumer prices, and sinking fleet revenues.

Fortunately, we have good insight into the factors influencing the shortage, and there are actionable industry and technical solutions we can use to tackle this issue head-on.

What is causing the driver shortage?

In 2021, the median annual salary of a big-rig driver was $48,310. Most drivers earn this yearly income by working 60 to 70 hours without overtime pay or healthcare benefits, and many drivers pay their fuel costs. Yet, these are not the only contributing causes of the driver shortage in trucking. There are several other major factors:

The age factor

According to the latest estimates, the average commercial truck driver is 55 years old. This means a critical mass of drivers is approaching retirement within the next 10 to 20 years. Without an aggressive campaign to recruit and maintain younger drivers, the trucking industry could experience an even deeper deficit of drivers.

Currently, Federal regulations prohibit anyone under 21 years old from holding an Interstate Commercial Drivers License. This stipulation creates a three-year post-high school gap, where potential driver recruits may pursue other careers.

Gender gap

Even though females comprise 47% of the U.S. workforce, they represent only 9.1% of industrial truck drivers. The biggest obstacle in recruiting female drivers is the macho image that dominates the public perception of commercial truck drivers.

Eventually, fleets can help the trucking industry overcome this stigma by emphasizing truck driving is a good career choice for women and they add value to the truck driver labor force. The industry can also actively recruit women to driving roles.

Covid-19 pandemic

At the height of COVID-19 in 2020, the crisis severely affected the turnover rate of large and small truckload fleets, including double-digit drops in the second quarter of that year. During that period, the shipping demand drastically increased, but truck driver availability decreased as downtime and quarantine conditions motivated some drivers to find ways to work near home and spend more time with loved ones. Consequently, fleets must compete against home-based or local job opportunities.

Life behind the wheel

The truth about trucking is the extended time away from family and friends, cramped living and working quarters, long non-stop driving, and showering at rest areas can erode the morale of even the most gung-ho drivers. Also, a driver’s life of fast food, gas station snacks, sleep deprivation, and a sedentary routine can lead to severe health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

To add to these challenges, the rise in backlogged ports has significantly increased a driver’s detention time, which is the time spent waiting to load or unload freight after the first two hours. Since about 20% of drivers are hourly employees, many drivers may wait up to 8 hours at docking facilities without pay. So, effectively addressing this problem can improve driver retention rates.

Truck driver recruiting and retention recommendations from ATRI

In this year’s ATRI report,  39.1 percent of the survey respondents believe the best way to reduce the driver shortage is to concentrate on recruiting young people. Based on this response, ATRI offers the following suggestions to trucking industry stakeholders:

How Solera Fleet Solutions can help the driver shortage

There hasn’t been a better time for you to explore the benefits Solera Fleet Solutions can provide for driver retention. With all the stressors that drivers encounter, you can demonstrate appreciation for them by making their workload easier. Eliminate paperwork and streamline their daily work regimen with best-in-class technologies from Omnitracs, SmartDrive, SuperVision, Spireon, and eDriving.

How does technology help truck driver recruiting and retention? Ideally, a driver should primarily focus on productivity and safety while working. This is made possible when drivers can easily and conveniently communicate with dispatchers, gain more control over their daily routine, and feel bonded to their teams.

Solera Fleet Solutions applications like Omnitracs’ driver routing software, dispatch software, and weigh station bypass can enhance the drivers’ experience and satisfaction. SuperVision Driver Performer provides managers with driver retention scorecards based on pay, miles, time at home, and more. It also allows for active engagement and monitoring to help significantly reduce driver turnover and avoid the costly process of hiring and training new drivers.

Solera Fleet Solutions take more stress away from the drivers by allowing them to use delivery routing software to meet customers’ time windows while complying with federal regulations.

Facing the driver shortage challenge

The 2022 ATRI report confirms what you and other trucking industry stakeholders confront daily. Among other concerns, the truck driver shortage is a challenging problem with a difficult path to resolution. For this reason, a multipronged approach is necessary to add the number of truck drivers needed to keep the trucking industry and the nation moving forward.

If the trucking industry implements a plan to attract and retain new drivers, they can make tangible strides toward easing the shortage. In addition, you can help your fleet drivers by using fleet management technology for driver workflow, safety, compliance, and efficiency. Learn more about implementing truck driver recruiting and retention strategies with Solera Fleet Solutions.