Friday, February 17, 2012

Driving Off the Road

Looming shortage of truck drivers impacts carriers and shippers.

Industry analysts see a major problem coming down the road for the transportation sector. Or maybe not coming down the road, if there aren’t enough drivers to keep the big rigs rolling, said an article in Supply Chain Digest.

Economic, governmental, technological and human issues are combining to create a looming shortage of truck drivers, particularly long haul drivers. Since 2007, the number of long haul drivers has fallen 18 percent, said John Conley, president of the National Tank Truck Assn., and turnover rates average 75 percent annually.

One in six drivers is over age 55, and many more are nearing that mark, as the field is not attracting younger workers, for both compensation and lifestyle factors. Driving a truck involves 60-70 hour work weeks, irregular hours, long periods away from home, and uncompensated time waiting for shipments. The increasing use of electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs), or electronic logs, will force drivers and companies to abide by hours of service regulations and similar guidelines that have been routinely fudged. This should improve working conditions for drivers, but put additional pressure on carriers and their customers.

Freight analyst FTR Associates sees a shortage of 180,000 drivers in 2012, and transportation economist Noel Perry forecasts that number rising as high as 350,000 in the next couple of years. This will inevitably lead to higher shipping costs, with the potential for delays and service interruptions. Conley said it is time for the entire industry to start thinking about what he called “driver sustainability.”

“Truck drivers are the lifeblood of our industry. They are critical human resources in the same way that clean air and water are environmental resources,” he said.

Kirk Shearer
800-898-0054 x103

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