How Can the Trucking Industry Safely Address Driver Shortages?
Oregon and the United States have been very prosperous over the last several years. Thankfully, along with our healthy economy has come a strong job market. Most of us have noticed the ubiquitous “Help Wanted” signs outside stores and restaurants and even printed on the bottoms of receipts where we shop. Every day, the news carries stories about workers at even the lowest levels earning increased incomes. According to economists, the United States has gained hundreds of thousands of jobs in 2019, and the unemployment rate has remained historically low.
But with this good news comes some difficulties. Hiring professionals constantly complain of a labor shortage and the inability to hire enough qualified employees. The trucking industry is not immune. Like so many other industries, trucking companies need employees. The question is how they can find them and whether they can do it in a way that keeps the motoring public safe. We’ll discuss those issues in this article.
Stress on the Trucking Industry
It’s easy to forget how much freight the trucking industry actually moves. But remember, almost everything that consumers need and use is transported by truck - including gasoline, food, clothes, appliances, and raw materials, just to name a few items. Moreover, as e-commerce has increased in popularity, so has the need for trucking.
Unfortunately, while trucking demand continues to increase, driver shortages have proliferated. The American Trucking Association estimates that at least 60,000 more drivers are needed and that the number of openings could reach 100,000 within a few years. The primary cause cited by industry observers is that a majority of truck drivers are baby boomers who have started retiring from the workforce.
The need to replace all of these workers at the same time that organic needs are increasing has proven difficult. Below are some current strategies being employed:
- Increased Pay and Benefits – For many years, pay for truck drivers did not keep pace with the economy. This, combined with a difficult lifestyle on the road, resulted in a high turnover rate. The industry is now making progress by increasing pay and benefits in an effort to attract drivers.
- Increased Inclusivity – Currently, approximately 92 percent of truck drivers are male. Industry observers note that this leaves a vast untapped market of potential female drivers. However, the industry also recognizes that continued efforts need to be pursued to ensure a safe environment for solo female truck drivers.
- The DRIVE-Safe Act – Currently, federal law requires commercial interstate truck drivers to be at least 21, even if the driver’s state allows intrastate drivers to be younger. A new bill introduced by federal lawmakers this year - called the DRIVE-Safe Act - would lower this age limit to 18. Proponents of the bill say the shortage of drivers is so acute that steps must be taken to get younger people interested in driving. They also note that many younger drivers already drive in their state but cannot cross state lines.
Opponents of the bill note that young drivers traditionally are far more dangerous and cause more accidents. Perhaps the sponsors of the bill anticipated the opposition, because they included provisions which enhance the level of training and safety required for drivers.
The Importance of Safety
Let’s face it – hiring someone to drive a semi-truck or other large vehicle comes with risks not inherent in other professions. With millions of semi-truck miles being driven, and the horrific personal injuries that result from semi-truck crashes, everyone appreciates that the industry must exercise care. On the other hand, commerce would grind to a halt without truck drivers.
Call with Questions
At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we appreciate the importance and hard work of truck drivers. And only time will tell how safely future generations of truckers will perform their jobs.
However, regardless of the hiring strategies pursued by the trucking industry, history shows that there will always be certain drivers who do not meet their responsibilities to society and negligently harm innocent people. We believe it is important that society hold these people responsible for their actions to promote safety for everyone.
If you have suffered personal injury as the result of a semi-truck accident, please call us with any questions. We will be happy to answer them.