Retirement of Drivers Points Toward Supply Chain Disruptions

The need to replace retiring drivers is the largest factor driving a shortage of drivers that could become so serious by 2024 that it causes “severe supply chain disruptions,” the American Trucking Associations (ATA) warns in a new report.

If current trends continue, the nation’s trucking industry could face a shortage of 174,500 drivers by 2024. The result would be “significant shipping delays, higher inventory carrying costs, and perhaps shortages at stores.”

The retirement of drivers will account for 45 percent of new driver hires in coming years, the ATA projects. Industry growth will account for 33 percent of new hires. In total, the industry will need to hire 890,000 new drivers over the next decade, or an average of 89,000 per year.

Driver turnover rates now exceed 90 percent as trucking companies try to take drivers from other carriers by offering sign-on bonuses, newer trucks, and better routes, Driver pay now exceeds fuel as the largest operational cost that carriers confront, and the report said carriers should expect continue to pay more in driver pay and benefits as long as the shortage continues.

Because carriers are becoming more selective in their hiring, putting higher priority on safety and professionalism, the current shortage which is expected to grow to nearly 50,000 drivers by the end of the year feels “much worse” than the actual numbers suggest, the report noted.

By next year, the shortage could quickly jump by 26,000 to 73,500 if the economy picks up even slightly.

Among steps carriers can take to bring more drivers into the industry, the report recommended:

  • Make driving a more attractive career choice by improving the experience for drivers at drop-off and pickup locations.
  • Adopt hub and spoke systems that reduce length-of-haul and increase time away from home;
  • Make a special effort to hire military veterans.

Lowering the driving age to 18 and improving the public’s perception of truck drivers would helpt to ease the shortage, the report said.

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