by Sean Kilcarr
Solving the growing shortage of truck drivers these days has become a complicated and serious problem for the U.S. One study reports that we could experience a shortage of some 200,000 drivers by 2022.
Low pay is part of the problem, as evidenced by 2011 Dept. of Labor figures that noted the average starting pay for a TL driver is just a shade over $39,000. This is certainly not the kind of income that can stand alone to support a family of four these days.
During a conference call organized by Wall Street investment firm Stifel Nicolaus back in March, Gordon Klemp, president and founder of the National Transportation Institute, touched on some other issues fueling the shortage. These include generous unemployment benefits (99 weeks), currently available to Americans, combined with a burgeoning “underground economy” that provides tax-free income resulting from part-time work mowing lawns, plowing snow, etc.; stricter driver hiring criteria (relating to health, safety record, substance abuse history, etc.); intrusion of technology into the cab, which has the net effect of pushing away drivers who are uncomfortable with the “big brother” effect; and expansion of private fleets, which offer more regular routes, more home time, and greater annual compensation.
In short, finding and keeping drivers is becoming a more difficult issue for trucking firms to deal with.