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Supply chains top concerns: Driver shortage

bp truck driver

For this transportation-themed series, Blueprints hosted a roundtable discussion of crucial issues affecting the sector. Learn what our panel of nine experts had to say, as they offer their perspectives and weigh in on key issues and more.

One thing everyone agrees on is that there’s a shortage of skilled drivers—except for the people who think there isn’t one.

For those who participated in American Trucking Research Institute’s annual survey, it was ranked as the number-one critical issue for the fifth year in a row. Over 30 percent of respondents ranked it first, far above any of the other listed challenges.

The next two highest ranked issues were also tied to those behind the wheel: driver retention and driver compensation.

Driver retention rose four slots higher than last year’s survey to be ranked second, due to the exceptionally high turnover rate among truckers, especially at larger fleets.

This ties into the third driver-related issue, compensation, which made its way onto the list for the first time two years ago. These three issues accounted for the lion’s share of votes and concern among the sector.

For some, a possible solution is the DRIVE Safe Act, a new federal program allowing apprentice drivers to start work at age 18.

While the program aims to increase the number of qualified operators, issues of safety, compensation, and long-term retention are top of mind for many in the industry.

We asked our panel to weigh in.

Marshall Kipp, president and CEO, Advanced Transportation Services (A.T.S.), Inc. BB #:120506 in Visalia, CA
We’re slowly starting to see more drivers come into the marketplace as wages have increased. The apprenticeship program for young drivers is a very viable solution, but at the same time, we must remember the safety factor.

Driving a truck is not just a job—it’s a lifestyle, and we must educate young people on how to successfully navigate this lifestyle to earn a good living and be respected for what they do.

Ted Prince, COO and EVP for planning, Tiger Cool Express, LLC BB #:290720 in Overland Park, KS
The DRIVE Safe Act is really just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The role of government is often to underwrite risk the private sector won’t, and some of these drivers won’t be insurable.

An 18-year-old who wants to get a commercial driver’s license should be able to do so, but no one’s going to take on that excess liability. It’s a great soundbite, but it shows how little people really understand freight.

Lowell Randel, SVP government and legal affairs, Global Cold Chain Alliance in Arlington, VA
The need for additional truck drivers has been well publicized and is very real. Availability of truck drivers impacts the whole supply chain and strains the efficiency of product movement.

The DRIVE Safe Act’s apprenticeship program can be a helpful tool to increase the pool of drivers. We encourage policymakers to consider additional workforce development initiatives.

Joe Rubini, president, Rally Logistics Inc. BB #:209734 in Toronto, ON
If people see there’s money to be made in the trucking industry as a good driver, they may embrace the job more than they have in the past.

If the remuneration is more aligned with the job, there are significant numbers of people who would consider it.

Many larger fleet carriers realized this early and have made adjustments to their driver packages to attract experienced drivers as well as new ones.

Norita Taylor, director of PR, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) BB #:162349 in Grain Valley, MO
There is not a shortage of truck drivers. There is a shortage of trucks, equipment, and compensation to retain truck drivers.

This is an excerpt from the Transportation & Logistics supplement to the July/August 2022 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole supplement.