The Truck Driver Shortage: How Many Truck Drivers Are In The U.S. Now?

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August 8, 2019

According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), there are about 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States. The ATA also notes, however, that there is a shortage of truck drivers in the United States. Over time that shortage is predicted to worsen. But why does this shortage even matter? What exactly is the reason for it, and what can be done to solve it?

The driver shortage is one of the many trends shaping the modern trucking industry.

This article will detail the ongoing shortage of truck drivers in the United States. It will discuss why this is such an important issue, using statistics to highlight the history and current scope of the problem. We will then provide an overview of some of the contributing factors that are causing this shortage, and conclude with a few solutions that might help solve, or at least reduce, the severity of the truck driver shortage.

The impact of the trucker shortage

If you don’t work in the trucking industry, it may not seem like having a shortage of truck drivers is a cause for concern. But trucking is a vital component of the entire U.S. economy, and trucking companies and truck drivers are responsible for transporting goods to different locations all over the country. The trucking supply chain moves almost 70 percent of domestic goods. Without enough drivers, many communities could not get the items they need to survive and live comfortably.

Causes of the trucker shortage

The trucker shortage didn’t occur overnight, and there isn’t a single reason for it either. There are several different factors that have contributed to this complex issue.

Driver demographics

Primarily, truck drivers are middle-aged to elderly men. As drivers get older and reach retirement age, they stop driving, but younger workers aren’t coming in to take their place. As older generations continue to leave this blue collar workforce, this could become an even bigger issue for trucking.

Working conditions

Driving large trucks over-the-road is challenging and difficult work. It keeps people on the road for hours or days at a time, leaving them unable to see their family members while they do demanding labor. And this issue worsens as the shortage does; with fewer drivers, the remaining workers have to make up for a lack of drivers by spending more and more time on the road.

Health difficulties

The lifestyle associated with truck driving isn’t the healthiest and it can take a heavy toll on the human body. Limited food options, lack of physical exercise, and sleep deprivation can all contribute to health care difficulties for drivers. It may deter potential drivers from entering the industry and cause or force current drivers to leave the profession altogether.

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New rules and regulations

Complying with the ever-changing rules and regulations in transportation is another factor that causes drivers or potential drivers to pause. The electronic logging device rule, also known as the ELD mandate, was and continues to be a widely debated and dreaded compliance issue. The ELD mandate forces mainly long-haul drivers to log their hours-of-service (HOS) using a device, rather than recording HOS on paper. The mandate introduced more stringent guidelines for the amount of time drivers can spend behind the wheel, complicating the lives of many drivers. The ELD mandate helps ensure that drivers’ time is spent appropriately. Drivers must log their hours accurately, and take necessary breaks and rests when required, so they aren’t overworked.

Solutions to the trucker shortage

There is no single solution to solve this shortage of drivers, but there are a few things that could help mitigate the issue of the shortage of drivers.

Increase driver pay

There is a wide range of pay available to truck drivers, depending on their age, experience, and employer. While some make as little as $35,000 per year, others earn up to $80,000 annually. However, increasing driver wages could encourage more people to pursue a career in this industry.

Providing better and more comprehensive support to drivers is another solution that might help address high turnover-rates and improve performance. This is especially true for young drivers looking to develop their skills and prove their worth. 

Decrease driving time

long distance truck drivers spend a lot of time on the road, and some, especially newer employees, may only be able to go home to see family members several times per month. Lowering the amount of time each driver spends on the road can help attract new drivers. This can also help companies retain qualified drivers by helping them avoid burnout.

More efficient route planning and job scheduling can help companies make driving for their fleet an incentive. Less time on the road helps to improve fuel efficiency and reduces your overall cost of doing business.

Lower driving age

Generally speaking, you have to be at least 21 years old to get your commercial driver’s license (CDL), and though some states do allow 18- to 20-year-olds to obtain a CDL, they can only drive within that state. Lowering the minimum driving age in all states would make it possible for younger drivers, like high school graduates to work as truckers and give them an option that they previously did not have.

Commercial driving varies between states in many ways, such as safety and commercial licensing, and standardizing licensing requirements may help reduce the shortage.

The trucker shortage is an issue that has gained national attention. This problem affects virtually every person in the United States. While there are a lot of valid reasons for the driver shortage, there are a lot of solutions that can help.

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