Large carriers often complain about the driver shortage. The research arm of the American Trucking Association (ATA) has named the driver shortage the industry’s top concern for the last two years in a row. But now the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s (OOIDA) own research team is firing back. And the data shows that the “driver shortage” might just be a shortage of truckers who want to drive for megacarriers.
The OOIDA Foundation tackled the issue by breaking down the numbers. First, there is no shortage of people earning CDLs. Every year, there are around 455,000 new entry-level CDL holders joining the industry. Only 98,000 CDL renewals are issued every year though. Even with that drop-off, the FMCSA expects there to be 5,530,000 new CDL holders and CDL renewals over the next 10 years. That’s more than enough to fill any empty trucks… provided carriers can keep drivers from leaving. And it turns out that small carriers are better at adding and then keeping drivers than large carriers.
From 2012 to 2018, the number of truckers working at mega carriers (500+ trucks) increased by 20%. During that same time period, fleets with less than 500 trucks had a 32% increase in the number of truckers employed. But by far the biggest change was for small fleets with 6 or fewer trucks. In just 6 years, the number of drivers employed by those fleets increased by nearly 70%.
Those numbers are also reflected in driver turnover rates, where large fleets have consistently higher turnover than smaller fleets.
“Those that perpetuate the notion of a driver shortage ask you to believe that basic laws of supply and demand simply don’t work,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said in a video on the subject posted last year. “In that they say we’ve got a shortage, yet if there’s a shortage of anything, it will be reflected in the price or value of that particular service. Incomes for drivers adjusted for inflation going back to 1980 would be twice what they are right now – or more – if they had just kept pace for inflation.”