The shortage of qualified truck drivers is one of the hottest topics in the transportation industry. There are approximately 220,000 job openings for long-haul truck drivers nationwide, but very few of these positions are being filled. According to USA Today, shipments have already been delayed and the cost of freight transportation is rising due to the low availability of drivers. High turnover rates, an aging workforce and strict driver qualifications combined with the away-from-home lifestyle have contributed to the decreasing number of truck drivers. If this shortage persists, rising transportation costs will be passed on to consumers across the nation.
Today, the average annual salary for truck drivers has increased by five percent to $50,000. Despite competitive wages, major trucking companies have turnover rates between 90 and 100 percent. The majority of truck drivers are approaching retirement age, and fewer young drivers are filling these vacancies. In spite of high unemployment rates and plentiful job openings in the trucking industry, these jobs aren’t as appealing as they were. To further complicate matters, the government has begun publishing carrier safety records that have prompted major companies to only hire workers who have perfect driving records, which has limited the number of qualified applicants.
Young graduates who would consider long-haul driving frequently choose trades and other occupations because they can enter the workforce faster. To acquire a full CDL, drivers must be at least 21 years old. This means that many workers who are ready to drive must find something gainful to do for three years. Several states permit younger drivers to secure graduated CDLs, but they are only valid within the state. Furthermore, the six-week training course needed for long-distance trucking costs over $6,000. Some trucking companies are offering incentives, grants and bonuses to get young drivers to enroll, but this may not be enough to fill all of the vacancies.
To overcome the shortage, some companies are recruiting truckers from outside of the continental United States. Efforts to reform the process might come too late and might fall short. Sadly, the nation may not feel grateful for long-haul truckers until shipments are delayed and freight rates reach unaffordable levels. For those who are willing to put in the time and fulfill training commitments, now is an exciting and lucrative time to enter the trucking industry.