The truck driver population in the U.S. is aging. That’s bad news for the supply chain industry, because not enough new truck drivers are entering the labor force to replace the truck drivers who retire. Take a look at what supply chains are doing to address this problem.
Alternative Transportation Methods
Semi-trucks are the go-to transportation method for most retailers and manufacturers because they can reach any city in the U.S under a predictable timetable. However, the truck driver shortage is forcing all supply chain players to look for alternative transportation methods. When it’s cost effective, companies can use air cargo, but there is still a need for truck drivers to transport goods from airports to retail locations.
Many trucking companies are looking into technology like driverless trucks. According to trucking expert Jan Gildemeister, progress may be slow and steady, but driverless trucks will be available in the future. In the meantime, truck companies are trying to appeal to younger drivers with sleeker truck designs that have more comfortable cabs and better technology.
Higher Truck Driver Pay
The most obvious way to incentivize new truck drivers is through higher pay. However, most retailers and manufacturers cannot afford to do this. The average truck driver salary in the U.S. is $40,000 per year. Offering higher wages cuts into profits, which isn’t a viable option for many companies. Of course, some types of truck driver jobs do deserve higher wages because of the higher demands.
The most in-demand job in this field is for truck drivers who spend extended periods of time away from home. It’s a grueling lifestyle that requires truck drivers to sleep in their trucks and endure challenging schedules and unloading delays. This lifestyle isn’t very appealing to younger job seekers, which is one major reason that new truck drivers are not joining the labor force very quickly.
Not much can be done about truck drivers’ terrible working schedules. They often need to drive at night when there’s less traffic, which speeds up delivery times. Transporting goods from one location to another can require multiple days on the road. Since increasing truck driver pay does not increase productivity, companies are less inclined to offer higher rates.
Lowering the CDL Age Requirement
One of the most recent changes that has encouraged new truck drivers to join the field is a change to CDL license requirements. Some states want to lower the minimum age requirement to 18 instead of 21. Since drivers between 18 and 21 log similar numbers of accidents, there isn’t an increased risk to the supply chain industry. Lowering the minimum age requirement also gives recent high school graduates an employment option different from retail or fast food. It’s possible to make a good living as a truck driver.
As you can see, the truck driver shortage is a complicated issue. New technology and state rules will help the situation, but this may not be enough to fix the problem. Even higher pay may not help the industry get back on its feet. The supply chain industry needs to continue to look for new solutions.