Young truckers not stepping up

A story in the Wall Street journal states that the trucking industry is having difficulty finding and keeping young truck drivers employed. With a shortage that is expected to hit 240,000 drivers by the year 2022, there is a significant dearth in young driving talent.

The American Trucking Associations report a current shortfall of between 35,000 and 40,000 truck drivers nationwide, an underage that means that many trucking companies are unable to achieve the growth they want because of a simple shortage in manpower.

So why is it important for young drivers to come into the fold? The trucking talent pool is getting progressively older. The average age of the American worker is 42 years. However, truck drivers have an average age of 49. That means in the next 10 to 20 years many of today’s drivers will be approaching retirement age, meaning they will leave the workforce and leave an even larger hole in the industry.

“Nobody wants to be a truck driver. All the drivers are old…no one’s going into the industry,” Rich Thompson, head of the supply-chain and logistics consultancy for Jones Lang LaSalle, said. “[The driver shortage] is huge, it’s one of the things that keeps our clients up at night.”

This has created an effect that is detrimental to the shipping industry, driving up shipping costs and employers scramble to make do with what they have. It is in fact stunting the growth of the industry overall: Doug Stotlar, the chief executive officer of the less-than-truckload carrier Con-Way, Inc. said, “The tight driver market is limiting our ability to fully seat our fleet.”

This trend, of course, hurts smaller trucking companies first and hardest. The Wall Street Journal report notes that when smaller companies hire new drivers, they often get them trained, only to find them “poached” by a larger company, who lures them to the larger companies with thousands of dollars in sign-on bonuses. Many companies will now take drivers right out of school because of the recruitment issues.

A less-than-truckload carrier like Con-Way Inc. transports goods from multiple shippers in one truck, making deliveries to several different clients at once. ATA estimates state that more than 30 percent of private fleets and less-than-truckload carriers now have sign-on bonuses. In addition, more than half of truckload carriers, who service one shipper at a time and often have longer routes, are offering sign-on bonuses to new recruits.

CEO Anthony Berritto, the chief executive officer of Newark New Jersey’s Salson Logistics Company, said “It is almost at an epidemic point where rates are going to double and triple in the near future. If we don’t start educating and starting to get drivers into the trucks that are qualified…this country is going to face a tremendous, tremendous, hardship.”

Shipping costs have risen up to 8 percent for companies like Basco Corp., a shower door maker in Mason, Ohio, that is responsible for about 800 shipments per week. They said they are disheartened by rising rates “at a time when diesel fuel, which is typically one of the largest drivers of trucking cost, dropped nearly 25 percent,” said Basco Director of Logistics Patrick McDermott.

This admittedly creates an attractive environment for young truck drivers who are just getting their start, but the effects on the trucking industry are not good in the long term. McDermott noted that Basco won’t be able to keep up, and will have to cease using their own fleet and switch to outside providers. That sort of move further drives up costs, forcing the company to raise product prices, which of course could lead to significant troubles for the company.

The article continues at length, telling the story of a 37-year-old driver who is considered “young talent” in the industry, and the effect his career has had on his personal life, as well as the stories of other companies and drivers who have been affected by this lack of drivers.

You can read the entire story by visiting the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of this issue by clicking here.