America’s Truck Driver Crisis
Without truck drivers, shelves in the grocery store would run empty, clothes would begin to disappear from display racks in department stores, and convenient online shopping would cease to exist. Have any of us thought of the important role that truck driving plays in each and every one of our lives? It’s an essential profession to ensure the timely transportation of goods and assets throughout our country. Yet America has an ever-increasing truck driver shortage; which is turning into a crisis. At the end of 2017, America had a shortage of 51,000 truck drivers. That number had skyrocketed from a shortage of 36,000 drivers in 2016. It’s expected that the truck driver storage may even triple by 2026.
What exactly is causing the truck driver shortage crisis in America?
Drivers spend day and night on the road in difficult living and working conditions, yet receive little pay. According to a study done by The Business Insider, it revealed that since 1980, on average, median wages for truck drivers have decreased by 21%. In some areas, they’ve declined as much as 50%. With salaries plummeting so low, many truck drivers feel the inconvenience of the job doesn’t match the salary; thereby causing a large turn-over rate in the industry. The truck driver turn-over rate with large carriers (those with more than $27 million in annual revenue) went up in the second quarter of 2018, rising 4 percentage points to an annualized rate of 98%. That’s the highest rate since 2015.
With the advent of 2 days guaranteed shipping from companies like Amazon, it has made it possible for consumers to have packages delivered straight to their door within 48 hours or less. Yet, do we as consumers even consider how this convenience is made possible to us? With the high demand for such services, the result is an increased demand for drivers. Last Christmas, America saw the highest retail sales in years as freight-volumes soared at record-breaking levels. With a shortage of drivers to meet such high demands, according to the New Food Economy, the American Trucking Association fears the shortage will rise even higher this year.
Dangerous Working Conditions
According to a study done by The Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016, truck drivers had the highest number of fatal injuries compared to any other job. It proves to be more dangerous for those operating transportation vehicles on the roads, compared to water or rail transportation. Most eighteen wheelers, without any oversize weight permits, weigh in at a massive 80,000lbs. That is a big responsibility for truck drivers to manage while trekking cross country at about 70 mph on the freeway. Even if they themselves are extremely cautious and alert, they cannot control other drivers’ reckless and negligent behavior. Also many drivers on duty face extreme weather conditions like blizzards, high winds, freezing rain, and searing heat. This causes some truck drivers to feel that the risks of truck driving are not worth the pay.
Truck driving essential equates to sacrificing your personal life; spending extended time away from family and friends. For long-haul drivers, this may not just mean a few days or weeks even. Unfortunately, it could be months before they see their families again. When it comes to mental health concerns for truck drivers, loneliness is at the top of the list. According to The Business Insider, nearly a third of drivers say being alone all day and away from their families is a significant issue that affects their overall well-being. According to one survey, it was found that of the 3,500 truck carrier personnel surveyed, 41% of drivers leave to spend more time at home, and another 21% leave because of health-related reasons.
With online shopping and consumerism as a whole on the rise, we cannot expect the demand for truck drivers in our country to decrease anywhere in the near future. To ensure the continuation of the timely delivery of affordable goods throughout our country, the trucking industry must recognize the challenges that their drivers experience while on duty. Drivers should be compensated with proper wages and more flexibility in work schedules to allow drivers to have both improved working conditions and overall quality of life.