Trucking association sees trend indicating a shortage of qualified driversWritten by Natasha Wheeler
“Our members are telling us that they are experiencing a shortage,” says Wyoming Trucking Association Managing Director Shelia Foertsch.
Members who are not reporting a shortage of drivers share statistics indicating it may be difficult to replace older drivers as they retire.
“It’s across the board, from our members in the oilfield to our members in ag,” she explains.
Nationwide, trends show trucking companies are having trouble finding qualified drivers.
“We are seeing fewer available drivers. Part of that is attributable to attracting young people into the industry,” Foertsch notes.
Increased regulations over past years have made it more difficult for young drivers to get into the business.
“They have to be a certain age to cross state lines, and insurance companies require a minimum age and years of experience, as well,” she adds.
Regulations for driver’s licenses are making it harder to obtain and retain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
“Drivers can’t just jump in at age 18 right out of high school,” says Foertsch.
Companies are also increasing required background checks and finger printing before they hire drivers, especially to carry hazardous materials.
“Medical requirements are ever-changing and becoming more restrictive,” she continues, saying that heavy regulation discourages some drivers from the industry.
“Now, there is a potential mandate for electronic log books,” she comments.
After years of paper books, many older drivers do not want to deal with the hassle of learning new systems and working with automatic logging software that could become required by the industry.
“They are just leaving instead,” she says.
Newer drivers, it seems, are less willing to spend as much time away from their families, she continues.
“This generation prefers to be home more often,” Foertsch observes.
Although they are not necessarily concerned about how far they are traveling, drivers appear to be more interested in companies that can provide a more regular schedule.
Once qualified drivers have been found though, Foertsch comments, “A lot of the industry is able to retain those drivers, especially in Wyoming.”
Statewide turnover is lower than the national average, and companies in Wyoming keep more drivers than those in surrounding states.
“At the national level, the American Trucking Association (ATA) has recently partnered to get more veterans driving,” notes Foertsch.
They have committed to hiring 100,000 members as part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring 500,000 Heroes campaign, which is a nationwide initiative to work with the military and their families to find meaningful employment.
“A strong trucking industry is critical to the growth of our country and our economy. ATA’s pledge to hire and support 100,000 veterans sets a tremendous example for others to follow,” says Eric Eversole, vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and executive director of Hiring Our Heroes in a Dec. 2 press release.
Company versus independent operator
“Many company drivers were looking to buy their own trucks, but that is not necessarily happening now,” says Foertsch.
Data doesn’t indicate a preference for company positions, but she acknowledges that independent drivers face a different set of challenges.
“A driver who owns his own truck also owns his own business,” she notes, speculating that it can add quite a bit of stress to the job.
Truckloads of general freight travel through Wyoming every day across interstate highways I-80 and I-25, and drivers will continue to be in demand.
Although few of the Wyoming Trucking Association members carry livestock, Foertsch says, “I am not hearing anything different from the agricultural sector.”