Driver short­age means in­creased job open­ings

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - JOBS ARKANSAS -

When you’re driv­ing along the high­way or in­ter­state, you may not re­al­ize you are in the com­pany of peo­ple who help keep the coun­try’s econ­omy flow­ing smoothly. The many com­mer­cial trucks seen on the road­way are cru­cial eco­nomic com­po­nents to busi­ness and in­dus­try — and so are the drivers who toil for hours on end be­hind the wheel.

Truck drivers are now in short sup­ply, a sit­u­a­tion that im­pacts the U.S. econ­omy on many lev­els. Some ex­perts credit this driver short­age to an ag­ing work­force, high turnover rates, in­creased freight de­mand and “life­style pri­or­i­ties” that can make other in­dus­tries seem more at­trac­tive to would-be drivers.

Eco­nomic ad­viser Mor­gan Stan­ley re­ports that about 75 per­cent of freight in the United States is moved over the na­tion’s road­ways by roughly 3 mil­lion truck­ers. Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tions, an ad­di­tional 50,000 drivers are needed to meet deficits, par­tic­u­larly in the long-haul sec­tor of the in­dus­try.

If the truck­ing short­age goes un­ad­dressed, in­dus­tries could fal­ter, and de­liv­er­ies may be late. In ad­di­tion, ris­ing costs of trans­port­ing goods by freight com­pa­nies may be passed down to con­sumers. In­dus­try ex­perts fear the short­age may al­most triple by the year 2026.

An­a­lysts have said this prob­lem has been fes­ter­ing for about 15 years. How­ever, the re­ces­sion that be­gan in 2008 masked the is­sue, and when the North Amer­i­can econ­omy strength­ened once again, the cracks in the sys­tem be­came more ap­par­ent.

The truck­ing life­style isn’t at­tract­ing mil­len­ni­als and the in­com­ing Gen­er­a­tion Z in­di­vid­u­als who are in­ter­ested in a work-life bal­ance, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tions.

If you’ve been won­der­ing why prices on cer­tain goods have steadily risen, you may have trucker short­ages to blame. Trans­porta­tion costs have been prob­lem­atic for com­pa­nies such as Pep­siCo, Hal­libur­ton, Has­bro and Tyson Foods, just to name a few. Tyson has said freight costs spiked by an es­ti­mated $200 mil­lion in 2018.

Ex­pe­ri­enced truck­ers who are in­ter­ested in find­ing work, as well as in­di­vid­u­als who are new to this em­ploy­ment sec­tor, may find that the odds of get­ting gain­ful em­ploy­ment are in their fa­vor.

The de­mand for drivers has re­sulted in freight com­pa­nies of­fer­ing higher salaries, as well as sign­ing bonuses for qual­i­fied drivers. Trucker com­pen­sa­tion has risen as much as 12 per­cent a year in re­cent years, said Bob Costello, chief econ­o­mist at the Amer­i­can Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tions. That’s a con­sid­er­able in­crease in wages com­pared to other sec­tors, which have barely budged re­cently.

Ad­di­tion­ally, while cur­rent U.S. reg­u­la­tions re­strict com­mer­cial-driver’sli­cense-hold­ing drivers from op­er­at­ing across state lines un­til they are 21 years old, the in­tro­duced DRIVE-Safe Act would es­tab­lish an ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gram for in­di­vid­u­als younger than 21 who hold a CDL to pre­pare them for in­ter­state com­merce.

Truck-driver short­ages are af­fect­ing the na­tion’s busi­nesses, mak­ing this a great time for those in­ter­ested in a ca­reer on the road to sign on.

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