Is a Truck Driver Shortage Looming?

I'm hearing more and more rumblings about a growing shortage of truck drivers beginning this year and then continuing for the next few.

In fact, according to eTrucker.com, Noel Perry, the managing director and senior consultant at FTR Associates, is forecasting that the driver shortage could be close to 200,000 this year and then swell to as much as 400,000 in 2011 and 2012.

Perry, who gave a presentation April 8 at an FTR online freight outlook seminar, says the impending shortage is the result of both a slow economic recovery and the tighter regulation of drivers. In particular, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 is sure to sideline some existing drivers, even as it simultaneously increases processing time for carriers hiring new employees, he says.

Not everyone is convinced that a driver shortage is imminent, however. And even if there is one brewing, there's disagreement about the causes, too.

In his post last month at The Journal of Commerce, William B. Cassidy summarizes a few of the key elements of the debate. For instance, he points out that some truckers feel trucking companies are responsible for creating shortages because they refuse to invest in education, advancement opportunities and competitive pay for their drivers. When the economy picks up and wages become higher in other industries, it's no surprise that truckers leave the road for a better paycheck, one driver told Cassidy.

During the recession, carriers cut overhead by removing trucks from service, slowing pay raises and laying off drivers. But now that the economy is beginning to rebound, that trend needs to reverse. If it doesn't, it seems that capacity problems are likely and that's why this is an issue to keep on your radar screen.

TAGS: Finance
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