In 2021, there were 81,258 unfilled trucker positions in the U.S. This was a record-breaking number, and it has started some important analyses and discussions about the future of the trucking industry. There are a lot of factors that are contributing to this problem, and having fewer available drivers requires the current ones to work harder in order to keep supply lines moving. The American Trucking Association (ATA) released a report detailing some of the known issues that have been plaguing the trucking industry and keeping them from filling driver seats.
Possibly one of the biggest reasons for the truck driver shortage is the aging workforce. When people think of a truck driver, they often think of an older man. Unfortunately, those older drivers are getting to retirement age, and they can’t stay on the road forever. Some leave willingly, others are forced out due to medical issues or other circumstances, but eventually, all of them will be gone. The heyday of America’s truck drivers has passed, and the industry is struggling to bring in young new drivers as quickly as they’re losing older ones.
The ATA also outlined recruitment failures as a factor in the truck driver shortage. Specifically, the recruitment of female drivers. Females only account for 8% of truck drivers. There’s no doubt that a combination of factors comes into play to create this problem, but one of those factors is a failure to recruit women as truck drivers. They’re a widely-untapped source, and they continue to be underutilized even as truck driver numbers plummet.
Another major factor in the truck driver shortage is lifestyle disadvantages, especially for long-haul truck drivers. It takes a special kind of person to appreciate life on the open road, but the trucking industry doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for special kinds of people when 78,000 truck driving positions remained unfilled in 2022. Even with the advent of communication technology that keeps people connected more easily, the younger generations are taking an approach to employment that doesn’t benefit the trucking industry—millennials are looking for a ‘soft life’ that gives them more time with their family and friends, and Gen Z are looking for more flexibility in their work schedules while they prioritize their physical and mental health.
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