Revisiting the Trucker Labor Shortage: Myth vs. Reality


Last summer, we wrote about a labor shortage within the trucking industry, thanks in part to the low unemployment rate and a booming economy. As a result, trucking companies were offering perks to incentivize drivers to join their teams.

Now, almost a year later, more people are weighing in on the topic, and there are some conflicting reports. For example, a recent article from Barron’s suggests that there is little data to back up the claims of a truck driver shortage.

Let’s dive a little deeper into both sides of the debate to try to uncover myth vs. reality.

Is there really a lack of applicants?

In the first quarter of 2019, many reputable outlets reported that a lack of applicants for truck driver positions would lead to rising costs for consumers. Fortune quoted Darren Tristano, CEO and founder of Foodservice Results as saying, “Millennials, they don’t want to drive trucks. They’re looking at this and saying, ‘I want to be in something more glamorous, more tech-oriented.”

Similarly, an article from NPR states, “The American Trucking Associations figures companies need about 60,000 drivers, a number that could top 100,000 in just a few years.” Around this same time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released an in-depth study on the labor market for truck drivers.

However, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) responded to that study with a press release highlighting that the Bureau incorrectly concluded that there is a lack of applicants when the reality is that there are an abundance of applicants, just a lack of qualified applicants.

The ATA Chief Economist, Bob Costello, says, in part, “Carriers repeatedly say it isn’t that they don’t have enough applicants for their open positions – they do. What they do not have is enough applicants who meet the demanding qualifications to be hired. In some cases, carriers must reject 90% of applicants out of hand because they fail to meet at least one of the prerequisites to drive in interstate commerce.”

Is it just one segment that is really feeling the shortage?

Costello also explains in the press release that there are misunderstandings about which areas of the trucking industry are most affected by the labor shortage.

He says, “First, the trucking industry is large and diverse – with many types of carriers, services, jobs and career paths for drivers. ATA has long recognized this when we discuss the driver shortage – repeatedly emphasizing that the shortage is generally contained to one segment of our industry: the over-the-road or long-haul for-hire truckload segment.”

When Barron’s reached out to ATA for additional comment, the ATA public relations office referred Barron’s to its 2017 Truck Driver Shortage Analysis, which concludes that the shortage will continue to get worse over time. (However, Barron’s argues the report is vague in its methodology.)

Barron’s opinion is that a lack of meaningful increases in the cost of truck transportation is a result of the absence of labor shortages and that overall costs in the trucking industry are on par with prices in the rest of the economy.

What do you think?

With conflicting information coming out regarding the trucking industry’s labor shortage, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Use the poll below to offer your insight on the shortage or lack thereof.

Do you feel there is a trucker labor shortage?

Has your business been affected by changes in the trucker industry?

Read the full articles mentioned above at the following links:

Acadian Industrial Textiles
Bureau of Labor Statistics
American Trucking Associations press release
American Trucking Associations Driver Shortage Analysis