The trucking industry is facing a massive shortage of drivers. Trucks are left unused as the trucking industry struggles to fill thousands of job openings for qualified drivers. There are several reasons for the driver shortage, and the trucking industry is finally taking steps to address them.
Drivers Are Getting Old
Your average truck driver is past 55 years of age. They’re one of the oldest actively working demographic in the USA, and most of them are close or nearing retiring age. Unlike in other industries where older people are encouraged to retire, trucking companies encourage their veteran drivers to stay a bit longer. Older drivers come with a little bit of risk. They’re not as fit, and their reflexes might not be as sharp. This leads to a higher risk of accidents or a delay in the transportation of goods. The shortage of new drivers has driven wages through the roof; a rookie driver can earn an average of $45,000 on his first year, and that amount can go up to $65,000 in just a couple of years. However, there are still too few who are qualified — or even willing to take the job.
Speculation on Driverless Trucks
The media consistently touted a future where automated trucks have taken over the duties of actual drivers. This narrative discouraged a lot of potential truck drivers as the media painted a dying career taken over by artificial intelligence. However, industry experts deny this narrative, stating that automation will increase the need for drivers not eliminate it. There’s no such thing as a fully automated truck. While trucks can go on “autopilot” in highways or freeways, city driving is a whole other matter. Every plane needs an actual pilot, and every car needs a real driver. A truck’s automated driving feature will merely aid the driver and not replace him. An actual driver is still required to make complex decisions or deal with unforeseen circumstances. An onboard AI can take over once a truck reaches the freeway, giving the driver a chance to rest. But unlike a plane’s pilot, truck drivers still need to keep an eye on the read in case of sudden emergencies.
Stifling Age Requirement
Truck drivers need a commercial driver’s license or CDL, but one of the requirements for crossing state lines is being over 21. This discourages a lot of graduates, pushing them to careers in manufacturing and construction where they could start their jobs almost immediately. The trucking industry has been lobbying for the age-requirement to be lowered, and there is a bill that reflects their wishes. However, whether or not this bill passes is still up in the air, and trucking companies need to strengthen their campaign to encourage young drivers to join their ranks.
In the end, unless things change, the trucking shortage will only get worse. Both the government and the trucking industry need to dispel the misgivings about automation and allow new drivers to start their careers earlier.