The supply chain world has been disrupted because the demand for most of the goods and services came roaring back when almost nobody was expecting it. The supply didn't have enough time to adjust to the new normal, which was cut back due to COVID-19. The supply-demand mismatch has been at the forefront of the current supply chain issues. Add the truck driver shortage for inland travel in the U.S. and you have the perfect recipe for logistical issues.
A truck driver shortage is basically a shortage of qualified professional truck drivers. Without enough truckers to transport the container ships carrying in-demand items, businesses are left waiting weeks to get what they need.
How severe is the truck driver shortage?
The truck driver shortage is one of the biggest and chronic issues faced by the North American trucking industry. In the U.S., the truck driver shortage as of 2018 was a whopping 61,000. If the current trend holds, the shortage is expected to rise to 160,000 by 2028.
In a country where 68 percent of the freight is moved on U.S. highways, the driver shortage impacts the economy as a whole. This shortage has also led to an increase in driver pay, which in turn affects supplier costs and the end consumer prices.
What's causing the truck driver shortage?
The problem is two-fold. On one hand, many people are leaving the trucking force. Second, new people aren't willing to become truckers. One of the biggest issues faced by truck drivers is the time spent away from home. Most of a trucker’s time is spent behind the wheel, which isn't a very desirable trait in a job.
Truckers’ pay doesn’t seem to be high enough for people to compensate for less than desirable working conditions. Most companies pay drivers by mileage instead of the time they spent doing the job. For example, the time spent in traffic jams, construction zones, and bad weather isn't accounted for. These factors make drivers look for jobs with better pay, benefits, and working conditions.
Can the driver shortage get resolved?
One of the ways the shortage can be resolved is by offering truck drivers higher pay. However, many companies like US Express mention that they have already doled out a 30 percent–35 percent pay increase over the last 12 months. Another 20 percent–30 percent hike might be needed to keep prospective drivers from taking other jobs. The company adds that it can't afford to make any raises in that range.
Other solutions include decreasing drivers' time on the road, lowering the regulated driving age, targeting women and minorities, and autonomous trucking.
Along with other factors impacting the supply chain like shipping and container shortage, the truck driver shortage is one of the critical factors. Moody’s warns that a truck driver shortage might be the “weakest link” in the global supply chain. Therefore, stakeholders are trying to find ways to tackle this problem.
However, the shortage has been a chronic issue and isn't going to get resolved in its entirety anytime soon. The truck driver shortage is expected to be a bottleneck in the overall supply chain in the short to medium term even if the other transitory factors get resolved.