Driver shortage bad and getting worse

We’re a long way from Smokey and the Bandit—42 years to be exact. The American Trucking Associations estimates a shortage of 51,000 drivers in 2019, and it’s expected to increase to 160,000 over the next 8 years.

“The driver shortage has been our biggest problem for as long as I can remember, and it’s gotten worse,” said Kevin Small, founder and CEO of Agri-Fresh Inc., BB #:342499 Lockport MB. “With ELDs kicking in in 2018, it’s been a bigger constraint.”

“I think the driver shortage will continue to be a problem until we address it,” said Shawn Boyle, president of the Idaho Grower Shippers Association, Idaho Falls BB #:162336. “Most of our associate members who are trucking companies have assets to get on the roads, but they don’t have the drivers to make the runs.

“It’s similar to grower-shipper challenges with labor,” continues Boyle. “It’s work that not a lot of people want to do; to attract people, you have to offer incentives such as increased pay. With the low unemployment, I don’t see it changing.”

“We’ve seen it coming,” said Stewart Lapage, director of transportation for The Oppenheimer Group BB #:116424 in Vancouver, BC.

“No one is surprised at the size and magnitude of this problem—it could have as big an impact as ELDs. People need to see that the ELD legislation affected capacity. Indirectly that took capacity out of the market. Drivers will retire, and there are not people to fill those seats.”

Jennifer Morris, president of Two Roads Logistics in Toronto, ON, says it’s easy to see the difficulty of attracting people to become drivers, but once drivers get a job, they realize how much they’re in demand.

“If you’re a truck driver, you have a job regardless of how good you are,” she said. “There’s no reason for them to do a good job, and it ends up being a cycle.”

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services