This has been some topic of debate for some time. Since the 1980s.
The thing is that labor shortages don’t last 30 to 40 years. There are almost 2 million CDL drivers the world over, and those numbers have only grown over the years. While it is true that the average age of truck drivers has been cited anywhere from 45-55 years of age and are starting to inch toward retirement, there are plenty of blue-collar workers transitioning to truck jobs as the availability of other jobs have dried up in the wake of the 2020 pandemic.
What most statistics talk about when they speak of “the truck driver shortage” is long-haul truckers. An estimated 300,000-400,000 long haul truckers work in the United States. There are about 450,000 new commercial driver’s licenses issued each year, and most of them go into long-haul trucking. See the problem with the math?
The problem is retention. Many who start long-haul trucking simply don’t stay in it. Entry-level trucking jobs are typically described as abysmal. Living on the road, lack of proper nutrition, exercise, restrooms, and hygiene, all of this adds up. Long-haul truckers are paid by the mile, about 52 cents a mile on average, and they only get paid for the miles they drive. Not the sleeping in their bunks overnight or the time it takes for loading and unloading.
There are regulations to how much a trucker can drive in a day, so truckers may only get paid for however many miles they can drive in 8 hours, regardless of the weather or traffic or any other dangers. This does not make the retention problem any mystery.
So what can be done? Much of that comes from a change of completely controllable solutions.
- Shortening routes. Drivers can drop off loads along shorter routes, even one to the other, to improve the quality of life for truck drivers, and quality of their routes.
- Pay adjustment. Truck drivers should be compensated for the time they aren’t spending building miles. Truck drivers do a lot more than drive. They should be compensated. Flat rate bonuses, safety bonuses, and things like weather should be considered.
- Attracting new drivers. Paying for CDL training and aiming to attract underrepresented drivers like women could make a big difference.
- Strengthen workplace environment. Managers and company drivers should be encouraged to keep talking long after hiring, keeping communication open between all channels is a fantastic way to encourage keeping the drivers these companies have.