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Why is There a Shortage of Truck Drivers?

For decades, United States trucking companies have grappled with an issue that was previously unheard of – a driver shortage. Over the last 15 years, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) claims the shortage has grown from 20,000 drivers to over 60,000 in 2018 and can be expected to increase to over 160,000 by 2028 if current trends continue to hold.

Although the driver shortage has been a challenge for carriers for several years now, it still begs the question as to why there’s such a divide between the number of jobs available and the number of truck drivers to fill them. It also leaves many fleets wondering how to hire truck drivers when the supply of applicants is dwindling. There are many contributing factors to the driver shortage, but we’ve outlined a few primary causes below.

Truck driver age

One of the biggest factors in the driver shortage is age. The average age of U.S. workers today is 42, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In comparison, the average age of over-the-road truck drivers is 46, based on data collected by the ATA. These older workers are aging out of the industry, leaving more for younger workers to fill. That leads us to the other side of the issue: the CDL age requirement. In order to cross state lines, a CDL holder must be 21 years of age or older. Due to these limitations, trucking companies can miss the critical years between 18 and 21 where young workers are seeking opportunities to enter the workforce. By the time they’re old enough to obtain a CDL, many have already found work in another sector.

Gender demographics

The trucking industry is—and has long been—heavily dominated by males. Only 6.6% of the truck driver population is made up of females, even though women currently comprise nearly half of the U.S. workforce. This leaves a massive untapped audience, but the industry continues to struggle to attract female drivers. Although many fleets are now creating initiatives to hire more women, the industry continues to have a brand image characterized by men.

Trucker lifestyle

It’s no secret that the day-to-day life of a truck driver looks much different than your typical nine-to-five. Long days spent on the road won’t appeal to everyone, especially when some jobs require drivers to be out for one or two weeks without getting home. When someone elects to go into trucking, they really are choosing more than a career path—and that lifestyle is not for everyone.

Other barriers to entry for potential drivers may include industry regulations and alternative career choices, such as construction. The bottom line is that the driver shortage is a complex, multifaceted issue, and no one, single solution will “fix” it. It is the responsibility of the industry to address drivers’ pain points and to continue making trucking an attractive, sustainable, and inclusive career choice.

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