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July 22, 2015 | by Mallory DeZwarte, Ruan Transportation

Driver Shortage Continues To Challenge Transportation Industry: Variables impacting the industry

White Paper: Variables impacting the industry

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The future is bright for the trucking industry—from shippers to carriers to all the players in between. As the U.S. population continues to grow, more and more freight must be hauled.

According to American Trucking Associations (ATA) CEO Bill Graves, in 2006, the U.S. population was around 300 million; by 2043, the ATA expects the population to swell to 400 million.
“We’re adding the equivalent of Houston, Texas, to the grid every year,” Graves said at the Iowa Motor Truck Associations’ (IMTA) annual conference in September. “Do you know of any other mode that has the ability to get to the places we get to to pick up and deliver that product? The answer is no. Trucking is going to take on a more and more essential part of the process of delivering product.”

But with the projected population growth—and therefore more necessary freight—comes many challenges. Increased demand for freight means increased demand for professional drivers, and the existing driver shortage will get worse. The industry needs to find an average of roughly 96,000 new drivers annually to keep pace with demand, and if freight demand grows as it is projected to, the driver shortage could balloon to nearly 240,000 drivers by 2022, according to data from the ATA.

In the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI’s) 2014 survey of the critical issues facing the trucking industry, motor carriers identified the driver shortage as the No. 1 concern—above other important issues like hours-of-service (HOS) rules, Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA), the economy, an electronic logging mandate and infrastructure funding.

For some carriers, the shortage is so extreme that they have turned down new business because they cannot fill the seats with qualified drivers. In fact, according to the ATA, some companies have even downsized fleets to match driver availability. Transport Topics reported that revenue for 25 of the companies on the 2014 Transport Topics Top 100 list declined last year, and while total revenue for the Top 100 companies grew by 3.1 percent, 2011 and 2012 saw 11.2 percent and 5 percent growth, respectively. While demand for transportation services is increasing, the driver shortage is not allowing the industry to grow as much as it has the potential to.

Contributing factors to the driver shortage include competition from other industries and changing demographics; congestion and infrastructure; regulations; lifestyle issues; and pay, among others.

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