According to the American Trucking Association, the U.S. has suffered a shortage of truck drivers since 2005.
In 2020, the driver shortage continued to impact the shipping industry, adding to the difficulties already affecting logistics providers caused by the pandemic. The result – additional freight shipping delays and cost increase industry-wide at a time when consumers were relying on fast home delivery at increased rates.
One of the most pressing issues impacting the workforce is its aging demographic. Today, the trucking industry relies heavily on male drivers, 45 years of age or older. In fact, the average age of commercial truck drivers in the U.S. is 55, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
An alarming number of these drivers will consider retirement within the next 10-20 years. In response, trucking companies are increasing benefits and pay rates to attract new drivers (CNBC). In addition, federal legislation called the ‘Drive Safe Act’ has been introduced, but not yet passed – designed to support the industry and close workforce gaps by attracting younger drivers.
COVID-19 Impacts a National Workforce Stretched Thin
The impact of the U.S. driver shortage on the shipping industry was heightened last year due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As consumer demand for overnight and expedited shipping increased nationwide, companies struggled to protect their workforce and keep their drivers on the road. The industry experienced an 18-month freight cycle within a few months, as lockdowns forced consumers to shop from home.
Last year, consumers gained a better understanding of the important role commercial drivers play in the nation’s logistics pipeline. For transportation companies, individual drivers became an even more important resource, as demand continued to grow. At the start of 2021, truck drivers continue to be in extremely high demand, resulting in volatility throughout the transportation market.
“We are living at a time where freight management market dynamics can change at a moment’s notice,” according to Denise Magalotti, President of TRL. “These changes impact the nation’s supply chain network, from freight brokers to carriers, and can be passed on to the consumer. Over the last year, we have seen a tightness in lane availability, increased rates, and disruptions in pickup and delivery times. Additionally, we have seen the price of diesel climb substantially in the first quarter with no decrease in sight as we progress through 2021. In our ever-changing industry, shippers really need to plan for an increase in volume and anticipate volatility over the next 6-12 months.”
Weather and Economic Slowdowns Impacted Trucking in 2020
In addition to COVID-19 shipping requirements, additional factors that impacted the U.S. trucking industry in 2020 included extreme weather and a nationwide economic slowdown that forced many small businesses, including trucking companies, to close. The extreme volatility in the current marketplace means shipping and logistics professionals must clearly understand the U.S. trucking market.
An in-depth understanding of the size, scale, complexity, and impact on the network of current workforce issues is essential. Shippers must also understand changing market dynamics and anticipate impacts to transportation budgets. According to U.S. Xpress, rates will increase between 8 to 15% in 2021.
“At TRL, we understand the marketplace and help our shipping partners plan in advance to ensure their freight is picked up and delivered on time, every time,” says Magalotti. “As an asset-based carrier with a network of carriers, we provide personalized, flexible, and reliable pick-up and delivery solutions, even in a volatile market. We look forward to supporting your transportation and shipping needs throughout 2021.”