According to most estimates, the trucking industry currently is short approximately 80,000 truck drivers, which is pushing freight rates higher and making it harder for freight brokers like you to cover loads. While most within the industry agree there’s certainly a capacity crunch, there’s much debate within the industry regarding the cause of the driver shortage. Some attribute the lack of capacity to low enrollments at CDL schools, while others claim that the pandemic and related port congestion is hurting driver availability. Others say the older drivers have left the industry due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19 and that rising operating expenses for truckers are pushing them out of the industry, while still others point to the nation-wide labor shortage as the cause.
In truth, all of these factors are in play and are impacting driver availability, but some are more impactful than others. Check out these three things that you may not know about the driver shortage.
1. 40 Percent of America’s Trucking Capacity Is Unavailable Each Day Due to Detention
According to a recent Overdrive survey of owner operators, inefficiency at shipper and receiver facilities is the greatest challenge faced in terms of daily hours usage. MIT research scientist David Correll recently echoed this message when he spoke to U.S. lawmakers about the problems faced by the American trucking sector. Correll reported that on average truckers only spend six and a half hours each day moving freight, even though they’re allowed 11 hours under HOS regulations.
“This chronic underutilization problem does not seem to be a function of what the drivers themselves do or don’t do, but rather an unfortunate consequence of our conventions for scheduling and processing the pickup and delivery appointments,” said Correll. “This, of course, implies that 40 percent of America’s trucking capacity is left on the table every day. This is especially troubling during times of perceived shortage and crisis, like we find ourselves in now.”
As a freight broker, you can’t control what happens at shipper and receiver facilities, but you can stay on top of detention with Trucker Tools’ load tracking platform. With the Trucker Tools visibility platform, you can set up detention alerts so that if a trucker is idle at a dock for more than two hours, you’ll automatically receive a notification in your TMS alerting you of the extended detention time. When you receive a detention alert, you can contact the shipper or receiver facility to find out more about the delay and hopefully get the truck and load moving again.
2. 75,000+ Drivers Ineligible for Work Due to Drug/Alcohol Violations
Introduced in 2020, the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse created a centralized, digital database for driver drug and alcohol violations. The clearinghouse is designed to make the roads and industry safer by giving the FMCSA, employers, law enforcement agencies and state-based driver licensing organizations real-time, digital access to CDL drug and alcohol violations. Prior to the rollout of the drug and alcohol clearinghouse, drivers could fail a test with one employer and apply for jobs with other employers who wouldn’t necessarily know that the driver had recently failed a test.
Since the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse was instituted in January of 2020, 103,364 violations have been reported to the clearinghouse. As of last month, 75,337 drivers have incurred drug or alcohol violations and are in prohibited status. When a driver fails a test, they must enter a return-to-duty status that includes working with a substance abuse professional and undergoing follow-up testing. For smaller trucking companies, the driver may have to pay for both counseling and testing to get back on the road, which may be impacting how quickly drivers can return to duty. The clearinghouse also requires that that the driver get follow-up testing with the same entity that provided the original drug test that the driver failed.
3. 3 Million More People Have Retired During the Pandemic
The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ recent analysis of retirement trends found that 3 million additional workers have retired during the pandemic. In the general population, many workers had to leave their jobs to care for children or elderly family members due to lockdowns and COVID-19 outbreaks at day care centers and long-term care facilities. Others were already near retirement age and the pandemic convinced them to retire earlier than expected. A large number of those who left the work force did so because they feared the health risks of being exposed to the Coronavirus at work.
Within trucking, lack of truck parking, congestion, safety concerns, time away from home and low pay pushed many truckers to retire early or move to other industries. Many truckers chose retirement because they were unwilling to risk exposure to the virus and long-term effects on their health. The National Transportation Institute reported at the end of 2020 that retirements accounted for more than half of the driver shortage. Compounding the driver shortage in the long term is that the average age of an OTR trucker is 46 and the average age of a private fleet driver is 57.
If you’ve got a growth mindset for your company in the new year, be sure to read 10 Ways To Grow Your Freight Broker Business in 2022 — and Beyond.
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