Truck Driver Shortage Reaches All-Time High

American Trucking Associations reports the industry is short 80,000 drivers as holiday shipping season nears.

NATIONAL REPORT — The shortage of truck drivers isn't just a big problem — it's at an all-time high, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), which reported the trucking industry is short 80,000 drivers.

The shortage existed before the COVID-19 pandemic but has grown worse since its onset, reported Convenience Store News sister publication Chain Store Age. Pressure on the retail supply chain cycle is growing as U.S. ports remain backlogged as the holiday shipping season draws nearer.

Truck drivers move 71 percent of goods in the U.S. economy.

"Since we last released an estimate of the shortage, there has been tremendous pressure on the driver pool," said Bob Costello, chief economist at ATA. "Increased demand for freight, pandemic-related challenges from early retirements, closed driving schools and DMVs, and other pressures are really pushing up demand for drives and subsequently the shortage."

The shortage could last for several years. Driver demographic trends, including gender and age, as well as expected freight growth, indicate the shortage could surpass 160,000 in 2030.

"A thing to note about the shortage is that before the pandemic, we were adding drivers to the industry even though we had a shortage, more people were entering the industry," Costello said. "The issue is that new entrants into the industry didn't keep up with demand for goods."

The ATA estimates that trucking will need to recruit nearly 1 million new drivers in order to close the gap caused by demand for freight, projected retirements and other issues.

"Because are a number of factors driving the shortage, we have to take a number of different approaches," Costello said. "The industry is raising pay at five times the historic average, but this isn't just a pay issue. We have an aging workforce, a workforce that is overwhelmingly male and finding ways to address those issues is key to narrowing the shortage."

He noted that companies are doing more to address structural lifestyle issues that have been a challenge for truck drivers.

"So by finding ways to let younger people enter the industry like the Drive-SAFE Act, reaching out to women and minorities, will open this career path one of the few with a path to a middle-class lifestyle that doesn't require a college degree we can put a significant dent in the shortage," he said.

The American Trucking Associations is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. Through a federation of 50 affiliated state trucking associations and industry-related conferences and councils, ATA is the voice of the industry.

Convenience Store News and Chain Store Age are properties of EnsembleIQ.