For a couple of years now, there have been rumblings of a truck driver shortage that is expected to get worse, but what are the real numbers and what are some of the causes? More importantly, what effects do these shortages have on fleet managers and drivers? 

Current State

As far back as 2014, Bob Costello, the Chief Economist for the American Trucking Associations, was recognizing that the driver shortage was “as bad as ever and is expected to get worse in the near term”. These comments were made based on turnover, which is often a proxy for tracking the driver shortage, and in many reports is used as the primary factor when determining driver shortages.In his 2015 video, the driver shortage was estimated to be 35,000 to 40,000. This shortage comes on top of the 3.63 million Class 8 trucks in operation in 2015.

Projections for the Future

A 2017 Driver Solutions infographic based on ATA data, puts the driver shortage in the beginning of 2017 at 50,000 drivers with projections for this number to rise to 100,000 drivers by the end of 2017, and 160,000 by the beginning of 2022.

These numbers in driver shortages come amidst a generally positive year for trucking in general. The ATA’s U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast to 2027 predicts that from 2016 to 2027, overall freight tonnage will grow a total of 35%


There are potentially many causes for the driver shortage and finding the real reasons can be complicated, however, there are some factors that are universally understood to be contributing. 


The average truck driver age according to ATA statistics is 49 years old, compared to 42 for all other U.S. workers, and as a result, a lot of the turnover rate can be attributed to retirement. The high average driver age also tells you something else about the industry: they are not attracting young workers. The number of 25-34 year olds in the trucking industry has dropped by 50% since 1994. However, trucking also faces a unique problem when it comes to hiring young drivers: the current age requirement to drive a tractor-trailer across state lines is 21. This means that employers are missing out on the population between 18 and 21. Many of these young workers find other industries in which they can begin a career at an earlier age. 

The trucking industry also has a big imbalance in the gender of its workforce. Overall, females make up 47% of all U.S. workers but only 6% of all truck drivers. This trend hasn’t seen any bettering and has remained stagnant between 4.5% and 6% since 2000. If the trucking industry is able to increase its percentage of women workers a big chunk of the driver shortage would be resolved. 

More Competition

The boom in the construction and other industries, has also created more competing jobs, and employees are choosing competing industries at a higher rate. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the construction industry increased payrolls by 113,000 through August 2015, and in 2014, had an increase of 338,000. New jobs created by technology are also seen as more favorable to trucking jobs, which involve long hours and travel. 

For Drivers

The driver shortage isn’t without its silver lining and for drivers, this could mean more benefits. Employers are trying many different things to attract more drivers, starting with the natural market reaction to a shortage: pay increase. Both monthly wages and signing bonuses have increased during the driver shortage and they are expected to continue. But employers are looking at other ways to make the job more attractive beyond financial rewards; these include other benefits like more rest time, more amenities in trucks, among others. 

For Fleet Managers

The driver shortage puts a strain on fleet managers, but also provides them with opportunities to creatively tackle the problem and distinguish their fleet over others to potential hires. The current environment is very much a “buyer’s market” and prospective drivers have a lot of the power when it comes to deciding where to work.

All workers place high importance on their place of work and for truckers, that means their trucks’ cabins. Having modern trucks that offer more space and driver assistance is a big sell to drivers who might have a mental image of a trucker as someone who sits in a cramped dirty cabin for long hours at a time. 

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