Fact or Myth: Is There Really a Driver Shortage?

Nov 24, 2021

Challenges facing the global supply chain have been earning more attention lately as COVID’s impact continues to disrupt product manufacturing and distribution processes in virtually every industry. As businesses attempt a return to pre-pandemic supply chain efficiency, one particular difficulty has become a somewhat misunderstood narrative behind supply chain issues — an ongoing commercial truck driver shortage.

Be it in freight transportation, logistics, or supply chain circles, industry experts and logistics journalists are finding it difficult to reach a consensus on what is and isn’t true in regard to the so-called driver shortage.

Truck drivers are indispensable to our economy and lifestyle, which makes understanding the finer details of the challenges they face key to adapting our supply chain management to a post-pandemic future.

Why Are Truck Drivers So Important?

Truck drivers are indispensable to our economy and lifestyle, which makes understanding the finer details of the challenges they face key to adapting our supply chain management to a post-pandemic future.

There’s good reason so many in the logistics industry believe the truck driver shortage is in fact a myth. In actuality, there are plenty of trained individuals qualified to take on this important role. The issue instead rests with the job itself — in many cases, tough working conditions, unfair treatment, and insufficient compensation have resulted in many qualified drivers seeking employment elsewhere.

If retention rates continue to dwindle, the supply of everyday goods and materials stocked in groceries and department stores across the country (as well as online) will drop, prices will increase and consumers will take notice.

Failure to retain these qualified drivers has created a major bottleneck in an already-fragile global supply chain. Identifying ways the industry can improve conditions for these essential workers is critical to restoring shipping networks to what they once were.

Challenges Attracting New and Retaining Driver Talent

There are several obstacles preventing otherwise-willing individuals from pursuing careers in this essential field. The following are some of the major challenges standing in the way of both retaining current drivers and attracting new talent:

1. The trucking industry is heavily regulated. Age requirements preventing drivers under 21 from crossing state lines have introduced an added measure of difficulty to the issue of attracting a younger generation of drivers. While ongoing legislative action like the DRIVE-Safe Act aims to mitigate this problem, the logistics industry is expected to require more than one million new drivers over the next decade.

2. External factors affect compensation. While many businesses have incentivized new drivers with improved pay structures, this marginal increase often fails to account for the current state of the supply chain and the delays, inactivity, and unpredictability of delivering goods during an ongoing pandemic. Many in the industry view the ongoing problems with fair compensation and the overall driver shortage issue as one and the same.

3. Longer driver wait times. With so many bottlenecks holding up products before they can reach their final destination, drivers frequently find themselves suffering through progressively longer average wait times — delays that essentially drain whatever added compensation they might have received for the job.

4. Problems with truck parking. Available truck parking is seriously lacking, particularly with many public rest areas closed due to pandemic safety measures. Lack of parking options is a consistent issue plaguing drivers across the country, compounded by safety regulations dictating the consecutive hours per day drivers can spend on the road.

5. COVID-related challenges. Drivers leaving the industry either due to pandemic concerns or issues with vaccine mandates have caused an additional drop in truck driver availability for businesses.

Employing More Efficient Methods to Handle Pandemic Demands

Lasting effects of the pandemic have created drastic shifts in consumer demands and are expected to continue rippling throughout the supply chain for years to come. The rising excess of freight signals the need for more effective methods of delivering freight while respecting the number of hours current truck drivers are allowed to spend on the road. One key to managing the so-called “capacity crunch” is reducing wait times for drivers by loading and unloading freight more efficiently. Strategically utilizing drop-and-hook processes, flexible appointment times, and onsite parking to ease the burden placed on the drivers even slightly can produce exponential results for overall driver availability.

Why Drivers Need Our Support

Truck drivers are an integral part of our economy. Their contributions have been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses and employers treating them well and working to make the job more attractive through improvements to compensation and quality of life goes a long way toward keeping the relationship between business and consumer strong. Whether it’s stocking store shelves, replenishing a car dealership’s inventory, or delivering timber for a new house under construction, drivers are at the core of the country’s most basic infrastructure needs.

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