The shortage of qualified truck drivers in the U.S. is projected to hit an all-time high of 50,000 by the end of 2017, according to Bob Costello, chief economist of American Trucking Associations (ATA).
“In addition to the sheer lack of drivers, fleets are also suffering from a lack of qualified drivers, which amplifies the effects of the shortage on carriers,” said Costello at a panel discussion at the 2017 ATA Management Conference & Exhibition.
Costello warned if action was not taken to address the driver shortage, the figure could swell to more than 174,000 by 2026. Replacing retiring drivers account for nearly half of the shortage, followed by overall industry growth.
The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), meanwhile, unveiled results of its annual top industry issues report, which includes the top ten critical issues facing the North American trucking industry. For the first time since 2006, the driver shortage has topped the list.
The significant need for qualified drivers to meet the nation’s growing freight demand surged six spots in the annual survey to top the list of concerns this year, ATRI said. Among the top strategies recommended by industry stakeholders to address the driver shortage include working with state and federal authorities to develop a graduated commercial driver’s license program to attract safe, younger drivers to the industry, and partnering with the U.S. Department of Labor to formalize a national driver recruitment program.
The complete results of the annual survey, which generated more than 1,500 responses from motor carriers and commercial drivers, were released today at the 2017 American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference and Exhibition. The ATRI Top Industry Issues report also includes prioritized strategies for addressing each issue.
Dropping one position from its top ranking last year, the upcoming Electronic Logging Device mandate ranked second on the overall list but was number one among commercial driver respondents to the survey. Despite FMCSA’s issuance of a final ruling on the hours-of-service rules earlier this year to permanently remove the more restrictive 34-hour restart provisions, the HOS rules remained a top concern in the number three spot on the list as motor carriers and drivers look for increased flexibility in the rules.
The lack of available truck parking held its fourth place overall but moved up to the number two issue for commercial drivers. Rounding out the top five overall on this year’s list is driver retention.
“Identifying the right mix of partners and strategies to effectively address the driver shortage is one of our top goals for the industry,” said ATA president and CEO Chris Spear. “ATA and its federation partners rely on ATRI’s annual analysis to ensure we successfully navigate the important issues now and into the future.”