A shortage of truck drivers that has been simmering in the United States for years has reached a full boil, causing anxiety from small factories to the Federal Reserve. Trucking companies have responded by raising wages and boosting their hauling fees. Their customers then have to choose between smaller profits or passing along the higher costs, which fuels inflation. Some producers have encountered a shortage of trucks, which can tap the brakes on economic growth. Don’t expect the problem to go away soon. In the tight labor market, construction and manufacturing jobs will continue to lure would-be truckers.
How bad is the driver shortage?
The truck-driver shortfall swelled to a record 296,311 in the second quarter of this year, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence. The change was swift: In the fourth quarter of 2015, less than one-tenth that many driver jobs went unfilled.
What caused the problem?
The root cause dates to 2004, when federal rules changed for measuring whether drivers had reached the maximum workday: driving 11 hours in a 14-hour period. The new rules said that the 11 hours begin the moment a driver gets behind the wheel; prior to that the clock would stop whenever a driver cooled his heels at a loading dock. (Just 6% of drivers are women.) Because drivers couldn’t work as long, more of them were needed to cover the routes. This started a driver shortage interrupted only by the recession in late 2007. And the population of truckers is aging. Only 20% of drivers are in the 20-34 age bracket, compared with 30% for construction workers. That’s in part because drivers have to be at least 21 to cross state lines, under federal rules, eliminating long-haul trucking as a viable vocation for new high school graduates.
See the full post from Transport Topics via Bloomberg online.