Report: Driver shortage growing; applicant pool gets shallow

Updated Oct 9, 2015
driver shortage
Source: American Trucking Associations

Despite industry-wide efforts to the contrary, the shortage of trucker drivers is getting worse and not better. And, a new report from a leading industry association forecasts it’ll continue that way for some time.

Making things worse: many of those applying for jobs are not qualified.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) said that according to its latest survey, the shortage of truck drivers has grown to about 48,000 and could increase as the industry expands and existing drivers retire.

“The ability to find enough qualified drivers is one of our industry’s biggest challenges,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “This latest report plainly lays out the problem – as well as some possible solutions – to the driver shortage.”

The report, ATA’s fourth since 2005, shows that by the end of he year, the driver shortage will reach nearly 48,000. If current trends hold, according to the ATA, the shortage may increase to almost 175,000 by 2024.

“An important thing we learned in this analysis is that this isn’t strictly a numbers problem, it is a quality problem too,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said. “Fleets consistently report receiving applications for open positions, but that many of those candidates do not meet the criteria to be hired. According our research, 88 percent of carriers said most applicants are not qualified.”

Other key findings in the report:

  • In the next 10 years, U.S. trucking companies will need to hire 890,000 new drivers, or an average of 89,000 per year.
  • Roughly half, 45 percent, of the demand for drivers comes from the need to replace retiring drivers;
  • Industry growth is the second leading cause — 33 percent — for needing to hire more truckers

ATA said its analysis does not factor in the impact federal regulations – like electronic logging – may have on the shortage.

Costello also said there are several possible solutions to the driver shortage:

  • Increasing driver pay
  • Getting drivers more time at home
  • Improving the image of the driver
  • Improving their treatment by all companies in the supply chain.

“Make no mistake, the driver shortage is a challenge,” said  Costello. “But, it is not an insurmountable one.”