Submitted by Sierra Dawn Manees
Lately, America has been having a major shortage of truck drivers. What does this mean for the country? Well, it means that companies have less and less people to ship their products so they are making less money and shipping for everything is much more expensive and takes longer. Currently, over 50,000 drivers are needed to even out the demand of companies like Walmart and Amazon.
This colossal shortage has already started leading to delayed deliveries and higher prices for goods that Americans are buying and it is predicted to get even worse in the upcoming years before it starts to get better. Why don’t Americans want this job? Despite the trucking companies offering such wages starting at $43,000 to $73,000 a year, and offering sign on bonuses and extra benefits, we still have this shortage.
So what is scaring them away? Most of the reason is the rough lifestyle that this job entails, if you don’t have a spouse and kids at home it is much easier, but if you have a family it can make it even more difficult as you rarely get to see your family because you are on the road so much. This stress on relationships can lead to divorce and separated families, and it is a real threat because it is not uncommon. If you want a real perspective of the stress it puts on families, talk to a truckers wife. You also don’t get to see a shower often (but this is changing as more and more truck stops make showers and relaxation quarters for truck drivers specifically).
There is also a lot of responsibility when driving a truck because you have to watch out for cars, which seem to have little respect for semi-trucks despite the danger, and you have to make sure the cars are not getting into your way or trying to rush past you when you are about to switch lanes. Also with this job you get little respect from police officers because there are truck drivers out there who do not pay attention and are not properly trained and therefore cause a lot of wrecks so it is usually assumed that the truck driver is the cause of a wreck.
There are also a lot of people who don’t want to become truck drivers because it is difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You are sitting all day (driving) so you are not staying very active and to put on top of that there are not a lot of places for healthy food, most truck stops only have fast food restaurants and not a large selection of healthy things too but like fruits and vegetables. My father was a truck driver for many years and his biggest struggle with the job was trying to maintain a healthy weight, he would try to stock his mini fridge with healthy things with him from home for the road but the fridges in the trucks can only hold so much and you only have so long before the food goes bad. Diet is an everyday struggle for truck drivers whether they are young or old.
Many people who have been truck drivers said they would suggest it to some family and friends, but not because of pay of the benefits or because “it’s fun” they recommend it because it is one of the easiest ways to make money without any college degree. But most do not recommend it to anyone who has kids because you will miss most of their life as they grow up. There a lot of flaws in the truck driver industry and it will take many years to fix even half of them.
So how can we fix the shortage of truck drivers despite all these problems? We can start by increasing driver pay, especially in big companies. The driver pays for big companies like Walmart are not very impressive. Some companies have even switched from paying hourly wages to paying so much per mile and keeping the drivers on a legal schedule making it so they could only drive for so many hours and had computers monitoring making sure that they take their breaks and they have to have 14 hours off after working 10 hours a day for so many days.
This makes it so drivers are not extremely overworked and they are more likely to get paid even more, depending on how far they drive. We could also decrease time on the road so that it isn’t as hard on families or lifestyle because the driver gets to come home more often. We can also lower the regulated driving age. Currently, you can only get your CDL to become a truck driver if you are 21 or older, but if we lowered the age to 18 there would be a lot more workers. The 18-20 year old age group has the highest rate of unemployment.
So having the minimum age for a commercial truck driver set at 21 eliminates a large number of potential drivers from filling open positions. Another thing that we can do is increase the use of autonomous trucking throughout companies. This new technology helps reduce the stress on a truck driver and reduces boredom and it is likely to attract younger tech-savvy drivers to the industry. We currently have a shortage of over 50,000 truck drivers, but predictions show that by 2024 we could have a shortage of 330,000 truck drivers.
To prevent this we need to make some changes soon because truck drivers play a very important role for our country and many companies around the world. If carriers start to think more strategically about untapped workforce pools and continue to offer comprehensive benefit packages with competitive pay, we can resolve this problem before it becomes too much worse. So when will companies wake up and start to make a change, the industry is not going to fix itself and without some change coming from everyone it is not going to get better but will continue to get worse. Where will we be then?
Submitted by Sierra Dawn Manees