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The United States is in dire need of more truck drivers.
A new report by the American Trucking Associations revealed that the U.S. trucking industry needs 48,000 more truck drivers to meet current demand. That’s a big increase from the driver shortage of 30,000 in 2013, CNN Money said.
What’s worse, if the current trend holds, the driver shortage could swell to 175,000 by 2024.
“The ability to find enough qualified drivers is one of our industry’s biggest challenges,” said ATA president and CEO Bill Graves.
The ATA said nearly 70 percent of all freight is moved by truck, so if the truck driver shortage continues, consumers’ pocketbooks could take a hit and the economy could suffer. CNN Money said:
American businesses need truck drivers to move goods around. And not having enough of them affects daily deliveries of everything from essentials like food and gas to supermarkets and gas stations to online Amazon orders to people’s homes.
It’s a job that cannot be shipped overseas and has the potential to drive the cost of goods higher and ultimately hurt the U.S. economy.
The ATA report said industry growth and an older, retiring workforce is primarily to blame for the current shortage, but there are other factors at play.
“An important thing we learned in this analysis is that this isn’t strictly a numbers problem, it is a quality problem, too,” said ATA chief economist Bob Costello. “Fleets consistently report receiving applications for open positions, but that many of those candidates do not meet the criteria to be hired. According our research, 88 percent of carriers said most applicants are not qualified.”
To qualify as a truck driver, applicants must be 21 years old, have a commercial trucking license and be able to pass both a background check and drug test.
The median annual wage for a trucker that works for a private fleet, like one employed by Wal-Mart, is $73,000, CNN Money said. The median annual salary for all truck drivers is closer to $40,000, according to Labor Department data. But unlike many other jobs with stagnant wages, trucker pay has been going up by 8 to 12 percent in recent years.
Still, it’s difficult for trucking companies to recruit and retain drivers.
In a male-dominant field, where female truckers make up a tiny 4.5 to 6 percent share of drivers, trucking companies are struggling to attract women, who now make up about 47 percent of the U.S. workforce. It’s also been difficult for the trucking industry to attract young workers.
Truckers often work long hours, sometimes spending a week or two on the road before returning home.
“It is not just a career, but a lifestyle that does not fit with everyone’s desires or needs,” the ATA report said.
The ATA report highlights a number of potential solutions to the driver shortage, including: driver pay increases, more at-home time for drivers, lowering the driving age to 18, improving the driver image and improving drivers’ treatment by shipping and receiving facilities.
“Make no mistake, the driver shortage is a challenge, but it is not an insurmountable one,” Costello said.
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