Since 2011, the truck driver shortage in the U.S. has been skyrocketing. According to the American Trucking Association’s (ATA), if the trend continues, there will likely be severe supply chain disruptions resulting in significant shipping delays, higher inventory carrying costs, and perhaps shortages at stores. With almost 70% of all freight tonnage moved on our nation's highways the shortage could be a lit powder keg on our economy.
Aging drivers that are retiring aren’t helping the matter either. So how do you get younger adults to join the ranks of truck driving? Well, there are legislative hiccups to that too. Drivers under the age of 21, while eligible for a commercial drivers license (CDL), are prohibited from interstate travel. If you are 18 and in the army, you could be driving a truck across international borders, but back in the U.S., you are not allowed to drive from Binghamton, NY, to Scranton, PA. The trucking industry is missing out on 18 to 21-year-olds who, by the time they reach 21, may have embraced an entirely different career.
The entire trucking industry is working to improve the image of the industry and its drivers. Gamification of the truck driving experience is certainly key to attracting and retaining youth as are retention programs that point to driver pay, more time at home and benefits, including health and wellness, as important retention tools. Also, carriers say that creating a career path that will eventually enable drivers to move out of the cab and into an office can help with retention.
So while gamification and driver retention programs are chipping away at the shortage, there is still a desperate need for good drivers in the industry. Resources such as Trucking Moves America Forward, which was created by industry groups to improve the industry’s image and make it easier to attract drivers and other workers to trucking, should be leveraged. There is a great opportunity here. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) could partner with ATA and guide the discussion to a pilot program and encourage a “graduate” commercial vehicle driver’s license. If done right, the 18 to 21-year-olds could gain the experience needed to be professional drivers and fill that void that the industry has while promoting safety.
It would be a win for the industry, a win for job creation for 18 to 21-year-olds and a win for the economy.