Where Have All the Truckers Gone?

Apr 29, 2022 | Supply Chain Problems, Transportation and Supply Chain News

Everything in your home, on the shelves of your stores, and in your warehouse spent at least some time on a truck.

For years we were warned that if truckers stopped, we would feel it in ways that we couldn’t imagine.

Well, we’re feeling it – we are all feeling it. And they haven’t even stopped completely, just slowed due to trucker shortages. But we are all feeling it in ways we never imagined. There is something that hits you in the gut when you walk into a store and see the bare shelves or walk through your warehouse and see that nothing is moving.

We get it. At OL USA we understand that the trucker shortage is hitting everyone right now. When you consider that about 72% of American freight is moved by trucks at some point in its journey, it’s easy to see how a shortage would certainly hurt. Whether you’re a point on the supply chain or a customer, you are no doubt feeling the pinch like a new pair of shoes that you can’t quite break in. Truth is, we don’t want to break them in! We want our old shoes back!

We want our truckers back!

Let’s take a look at how we got here and what it’s going to take to find our way out of it.

The State of Trucking in 2022

If you’ve been on social media lately, the land of infinite conspiracies, you’ve likely seen some ideas tossed around about the state of US truckers. Most of it is completely bonkers so it might take a minute to sort it out.

Coming on the heels of the Great Supply Chain Disruption, thanks to the pandemic, everyone has been stretched to the limit. Ports were closed, cargo ships were stuck in the ocean, port in site, unable to unload or load. Port became overwhelmed as they turned into forests of shipping containers. It was the world’s biggest bottleneck. Nothing was moving.

This trucker problem is not new though. It’s just at its tipping point it seems. The American Trucking Associations reported that in 2021 there was a deficit of 80,000 truck drivers in the United States – a record that we’d rather not have broken.

What’s the Problem? The Reasons Behind the Shortage

Conspiracies aside, the reason for this shortage is simple – bad jobs. There are plenty of drivers.  In 2019 there were more than 10 million commercial driver’s licenses held by Americans and just 3.7 million trucks that needed those drivers.

The dissatisfaction is not new, but it has been on a long, low simmer for several decades. The 1980s saw a slight shift from lucrative business to silently, slowly plummeting industry. The Teamsters had been keeping the industry driver friendly, ensuring good working conditions and good pay, but then-President Carter’s administration thought it would be a great idea to deregulate the trucking industry – to create a little competition.

This was like a huge green light for a flood of new trucking companies to enter the arena. Problem is, it did not make the industry better but turned it into a third-world mentality with abysmal driver pay and worse conditions. Drivers had more demands but no resources or support to meet them in a way that didn’t carry dire costs to their health and wellbeing. It doesn’t help that the highway is a dangerous place. According to the DOT, a truck driver has a significantly greater chance (10 times more to be exact) of being killed on the job than the average worker in the U.S.

And as the government is wont to do, the fed spent the next several decades implementing laws and regulations in an attempt to “fix” what they broke. Less time on the road, more time in the berth, and other restrictions. On the surface, this sounds great, but look deeper and you can see that even the time constraints can leave a driver parked in the middle of nowhere on the shoulder of an on-ramp for 10 hours.

They were pushed and pushed, then they began to push back.

The pandemic hit and brought the entire freight industry to a screeching halt – or at least a crawl. This added to the stress on an already overworked, underpaid industry and it broke.

Now trucking companies are scrambling, offering extremely generous sign-on bonuses, benefits, and plenty of perks. They keep throwing incentives at drivers, hoping that something will stick.

It isn’t sticking.

What Has to Change?

If we are going to get back on track and get freight moving, things need to change. The trucking industry needs to change. Drivers need better conditions where they are not perpetually hungry, tired, and dealing with a lousy schedule. They need a work environment that is not conducive to health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

Ports are slowly opening but while it looks positive on the surface, it is just added stress on overtaxed truck drivers.

What needs to happen is more drivers need to actively work in the industry.

What has to change in order for that to occur is a total revamp of trucking.

The truck driver shortage is changing the face of logistics, but there are ways shippers can manage:

Keep your bottom line in sight and make adjustments as needed.

Transportation prices are increasing as everything gets more expensive and it drives up rates. Factor in these costs and make adjustments as soon as possible to prevent delays.

Plan, plan, plan

Have a plan in place for transportation problems or challenges. Whether it’s a driver shortage or more pandemic port closure madness, try to come up with a Plan B that you can put into place quickly.

Select a transportation partner that works with you.

Not all trucking companies are created equal. Find the one that is right for you, knows your industry, and you have the confidence to get the job done. Look for a collaborative relationship and keep things moving.

 

Don’t let the trucker shortage bring your operation to a halt. Partner with OL USA and let us help you keep your supply chain moving. Call today to learn more.

Sign up for OL USA's weekly Industry Snapshot

* indicates required

How Will Changing Environmental Policies Impact Shipping and Logistics?

The reality? The logistics industry is notorious for stirring up less-than-positive environmental press. And considering a single Capesize Bulk Carrier uses 40-plus metric tons per day—and releases about 33,000 tons of CO2 in a single year—that shouldn’t come as a...

The Geopolitical Impacts on the Global Supply Chain

The global economy has gone through an awful lot of changes over the past several years, which is nothing new. We’ve all been pointing fingers at the pandemic concerning economic disruption, and for good reason—it’s disrupted trade to a degree we haven’t really seen...

Top 5 Freight Forwarding Best Practices

Whether you are a seasoned veteran or planning your first international shipment, the freight forwarding process can be challenging to navigate. Even the slightest hiccup along the way can cause significant delays, damaged goods, and higher costs. Given these high...

Five Long-Term Changes Covid Caused for Shipping and Logistics

Remember back in March and April of 2020 when nobody could find toilet paper? That was the first nationwide supply chain crisis most of the United States can remember since the Gas Shortage from the seventies. Slowly, over the past couple of years, we’ve started to...

2022 Shipping Reform Act Addresses Rail Delay Causes

Early return dates (ERDs) can give anyone the chills. For example, imagine you just successfully finished a grueling negotiation to deliver a large shipment to an overseas buyer. Your company organized a trucking company to transport goods to the port over the next...

US Port Delays: What You Need To Know Right Now

With peak shipping season fast upon us, U.S. port delays show no sign of easing up. Demand for shipping containers is up 86% over first-quarter numbers as retailers gear up for the annual rise in demand that results from a return to school and the upcoming holiday...

Port Strikes in Europe

Early return dates (ERDs) can give anyone the chills. For example, imagine you just successfully finished a grueling negotiation to deliver a large shipment to an overseas buyer. Your company organized a trucking company to transport goods to the port over the next...

The 2022 Shipping Reform Act: What It Means for Ocean Carriers

Early return dates (ERDs) can give anyone the chills. For example, imagine you just successfully finished a grueling negotiation to deliver a large shipment to an overseas buyer. Your company organized a trucking company to transport goods to the port over the next...

5 Supply Chain Consequences of the War in Ukraine

Not only has the war in Ukraine had a devastating impact on the people of the country, but it has also sent profound shockwaves through global supply chains that were already reeling from years of disruption caused by pandemic-induced lockdowns.  Famine is Stalking...

The Business of Shipping Pet Food  

Early return dates (ERDs) can give anyone the chills. For example, imagine you just successfully finished a grueling negotiation to deliver a large shipment to an overseas buyer. Your company organized a trucking company to transport goods to the port over the next...
Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner