Drivin’ My Life Away…
We have a truck driver shortage in the U.S., despite the fact that it is the most common job in nearly 30 states. In the U.S., truck drivers number 3.5 million, with about 1.8 million of them working specifically as long-haul or tractor-trailer drivers, according to 2014 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite that number, according to the American Trucking Association, the industry lacks at least 48,000 drivers. Some peg the number of drivers currently needed at 100,000. And the need is growing.
Why the Demand for So Many Drivers?
One big reason is that trucking cannot be outsourced, and driving trucks can’t be automated—at least, not quite yet. Goods need to be moved from points A to B, and that takes human beings sitting in front of steering wheels.
However, the occupation often isn’t a worker’s first choice, even among those having a hard time landing a job. One big reason is the well-deserved reputation for long hours on the job combined with many days to weeks away from home. Although trucking jobs often pay decently when compared to other occupations—the median pay was $39,520 in 2014, and that number is rising quickly—the wages can mean 18-hour days and two weeks away from family. Younger workers, in particular, do not appear interested because of the sacrifices that trucking can require. The median age of a truck driver is 49, while the median age of the average worker across all occupations is 42.
Another reason for the driver shortage is the financial crisis. During that time, trucking companies consolidated, and a number of drivers lost their jobs. Some of these drivers are not willing to return to trucking now. Gretchen Jackson, manager of recruitment at Con-way Truckload, noted that “[t]his situation forced drivers to look for other work where they were able to be home more with their loved ones and be a part of the day-to-day life of a family. Drivers saw what they missing being out on the road for 2-3 weeks and many made the decision not to give that up.”
In the meantime, the number of truckers needed is exceeding pre-financial crash levels.
What’s the End Result?
The constant demand for more drivers translates into high industry turnover. Some carriers, especially smaller ones, experience a 100 percent turnover every year among their drivers. And, with specialized training and licensing needed to drive the big rigs, it’s not easy for trucking companies to find qualified drivers.
Enter the truck driving schools. Drivers often have a job lined up before they finish their training. Indeed, training drivers is one of the fastest-growing parts of the trucking industry.
But training isn’t the be-all and end-all solution. Training is a good starting place, but it’s no substitute for road experience. As new drivers find they can’t tolerate the long hours and weeks away from their families, they leave the industry. Meanwhile, experienced drivers who stick with it are often lured away with signing bonuses and increased pay, leaving gaping holes that are filled by those new to trucking, especially at the smaller companies.
The industry is talking about more pay, more benefits, and better training as a way to combat the driver shortage. Swift Transportation, the largest carrier in the U.S., has stated it will increase pay and benefits to attract more and better drivers.
Still, there is one thought we want to leave you with: If the drivers who leave trucking are steadily replaced by those with less experience, this fact can mean danger on the roads for you and your family.
When Something Goes Wrong, We Are Left to Wonder
While monetary compensation can never undo the damage done as the result of a truck accident, a financial recovery can ease the burdens caused by overwhelming medical bills, loss of income, and disability. By choosing to talk with Indianapolis truck accident lawyer Mike Stephenson, you will benefit from over 30 years of experience, significant investigative and financial resources, and high standards of client care. Call Mike today at 1-317-825-5200, or use our online form. At Stephenson Rife, when others breach their duty, we keep ours.