The freight hauling industry has a long history and distinct legacy in American culture. The image of the lone truck driver and his big rig driving the desert flats as he makes his deliveries is woven into the fabric of the blue-collar way of life. This is an industry that has been hitting the skids in recent years, however.
According to The Star Tribune, America is facing one of the worst trucker shortages in history. Despite offering higher salaries and lower bars to entry than ever before, there are tens of thousands of trucking jobs that need to be filled. People in the industry are forced to pick up the slack by working longer hours and taking more deliveries.
National labor shortage
Number are difficult to pin down, but the trucking industry reports that 63,000 jobs have been left unfilled this year. Instructors at TDDS Technical Institute, an independent trucking school, say this is the worst driver drought they have ever seen, and estimate the shortage is closer to 100,000.
“As long as you can get in and out of a truck and pass a physical, a trucking company will take a look at you now,” said Trish Sammons, the job placement coordinator at TDDS. It is a daily struggle for Sammons to provide drivers to companies. “I recently placed someone who served time for manslaughter.”
Offering substantial raises and benefits has not helped the problem. Jason Olesh, VP at Aim Transportation Solutions recently tried recruiting at TDDS. Despite offering $70,000 a year, full benefits, non-hazardous payloads and routes that would get drivers home to see their families most nights, he received very little interest.
Greater danger on the road
Olesh’s fleet of truck drivers is down almost 100 workers. Longer hours and fewer breaks is likely to result in more accidents as drivers make their ways across the interstate to deliver their cargo. According to the Labor Department, there were over 1,000 fatalities among truck drivers in 2016, making the profession almost eight times more lethal than being a police officer.
Many of these accidents include normal drivers commuting to work, driving with their families or running errands. Take extra care when you are on the road. Give 18-wheelers extra space when you pass on the highway, and always be aware of their blind spots. These drivers are professionals, but extenuating circumstances can lead to devastating accidents.
Technologists like Elon Musk hold out hope that driverless vehicles may be the much-needed solution. That kind of technology is, however, still several years off. For now, recruiters will continue to try to bolster the ranks of the trucking industry in whatever ways they can.