Driver Shortages in America's Shipping Industry

Drivers are the heart of the shipping industry. They are the ones that are in charge of getting products between destinations in a timely manner. Recently, America has seen a steady increase in driver shortages, with an annual shortage of nearly 48,000 drivers. What is causing this void in driver availability, and what can be done to change it? Those are the questions we'll explore during this discussion.

High Turnover Rates

One of the biggest factors in America's driver shortages is the high turnover rate in the shipping industry. Trucking companies now sit at nearly a 100% turnover rate because of the amount of people who enter the industry and leave before their one-year hire date. This is not to say that every trucker quits within the first year. For instance, a company may aim to hire four truckers, but only two of them stay past the first year. Between those two drivers, one eventually quits. This still leaves a shortage of three drivers and a 100% turnover rate between the two that got hired, even if one of the original hires stays with the company for the long term.

What can be done about it?

Reducing the turnover rate is a matter of boosting employee morale levels and providing better benefits for truck drivers. Pay rates, time off, and other perks may also play a role in keeping employees long term. With such a strong shortage though, trucking companies are forced to work their good employees as much as possible – which may cause them to quit over time. It's a never ending cycle that could get better if the shortage wasn't so severe.

Stringent Driving Regulations

Another factor in the lack of truckers in America is the strain new regulations place on truckers to meet their goals. At one point, drivers were allowed the freedom to essentially drive as long as they wanted to, but now they are only allowed to drive for 11 hours a day, followed by an 8 hour break. These regulations are set up for the drivers' safety, but it puts extra pressure on the drivers to get to their destinations within a certain time frame. Unfortunately, this leads to high driving speeds, which ultimately leads to job loss. Drivers feel the need to cram as many miles into a day as possible in order to keep their pay rates high.

What can be done about it?

As we mentioned above, the stringent driving regulations are in place for a reason. They ensure that truckers are safe on the road at all times without overexerting themselves. The best approach for reducing the impact of this would be to consider hourly compensation for drivers, rather than paying them by the mile. This takes the pressure off the time constraint so the workers can focus on their safety. As an alternative, shipping companies may increase their per mile pay rates so drivers do not have to increase their speed to reach the same goals.

Lack of Pay Increases

Income also influences the shortage of drivers in America. An infographic from Overdrive shows that average driver pay rates are much lower than the average household income in America, and that trucking salaries have not kept up with inflation rates. Since many truck drivers are the primary income providers for their households, this imbalance in income could cause many drivers to seek out better paying employment opportunities.

What can be done about it?

The obvious answer is to pay truckers more money, but it's not that simple. Shipping companies have to weigh out the cost of fuel, hiring extra drivers, updating their equipment, making truck repairs, and more when calculating their expenses. There simply isn't enough extra money going around to provide a hefty pay increase for all American truck drivers. With that in mind, shippers and distribution centers can work to improve the efficiency of their warehouses and reduce overhead costs in other areas to provide more funding for their drivers. With better pay opportunities, drivers may be more inclined to come on board and stick around for good.

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