Truckers are Putting Themselves in the Driver’s Seat

It’s simple economics: Truckers are in demand and supply is low– opportunistic truckers are seeing past the current obstacles and turning this trucker shortage into a major payday. Some truck drivers plan to double their income as the trucker shortage creates an opportunity for those who want to take it—this according to a recent story in The Washington Post.

The story focused on why the trucking industry cannot attract new blood, which included some of the obvious challenges of the long-haul driver such as isolation and long periods away from families.

A very interesting piece, this story highlights different points of view of the truck driver—some, of course, lamenting the current state of affairs with the tightened restrictions and salaries not in line with inflation. But what stuck out for me were THE OTHERS—those who are seizing the moment and taking advantage of the dire need for their skill set, some of whom have put plans in place to double their income this year.

One reason for the lack of supply is obvious: The current community is aging out—retiring or approaching retirement. This infographic illustrates the problem pretty clearly.

Further, according to a recent report by NBC News, the trucking industry is seeking but is having trouble hiring young talent—there are age requirements (must be over 21 to cross state lines), physical and health requirements, extensive and expensive training—but the biggest hurdle continues to be the arduous lifestyle of the truck driver. The articles highlights that most truck drivers would not choose this career for their children.

It’s no secret that the shortage comes at exactly the same time as the need for truck drivers is escalating and is expected to keep growing.

According to Thomas Balzer, president and CEO of the Ohio Trucking Association, we are at crisis level. We currently have a shortage of over-the-road truckload drivers of about 52,000 and that number could quadruple by 2025. Stats like that are empowering truck drivers to feel as if they are in the driver’s seat.

And we should expect to see the price tag for quality trucking service go up over the next couple months as the industry prepares for the recently announced tariff increase planned for January 1, 2019. According to a recent story in the JOC, expect the industry to implement a front-loading strategy, which will cause huge disruption as items normally imported in January and February will be arriving in the fourth quarter 2018. The disruptions will impact the entire supply chain, including shipping, warehousing and, of course, trucking.

Given the current environment, it makes sense that truckers are taking advantage of their power position. As stated in the aforementioned JOC piece, Laura Crowe, Senior Director of Global Logistics at Walmart, claims that shippers know how vital the trucker is to their business and that it is not just about paying them, they also need to work closely with the truckers and do more for them.

Clearly, some kinks need to be worked out as truckers are giving mixed reviews on current hard-to-achieve bonus programs, but no doubt shippers and trucking companies will continue to develop incentive and bonus programs that not only increase pay but help build mutually beneficial relationships, giving the truck drivers the income and the respect they feel they have earned.