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Drivers/Owner-Operators Shortage: A Threat to the Trucking Industry

A looming challenge facing the freight industry is a shortage of drivers or owner-operators. It has been a major concern since early 2011 but seems to be escalating. In a recent trucking outlook report conducted by Commercial Carrier Journal, almost half of all survey respondents considered driver scarcity as their number one challenge, an 8 percent increase from the previous year.

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Transportation companies admit that finding capable new drivers has become more difficult in the past few years. In an attempt to find a solution, experts found that new drivers are becoming more attracted to larger carriers. Obviously, this is because of greater bonuses and other alluring benefits, in which smaller companies couldn’t afford.

For the public or those outside of the trucking, driver demand may not sound scary. It is. This driver/owner-operator shortage issue could be one of the country’s major problems in the near future. It’s because negative effects in the freight and transportation industry have a tendency to spill into other economic sectors, including food and retail.

Other forms of transportation often have cost increases when demand shifts their way. For example, the average cost of rail transportation increased up 6.5 percent last year. This is due to the countless shippers switching to railway freight in order to suffice the growing number of goods needed to be shipped that the trucking industry can’t keep up with.

Suggest solutions vary from raising truck drivers’ pay, offering larger bonuses, or improving working conditions. The downside to such moves is that the prices of food and retail products will increase as well to fund new driver benefits.

This changing culture has led numerous fleets and shipping and transportation companies to experiment new pay structures, with the use of various incentives. Rumors are that some larger fleets have increased pay as much as 10 percent in order to hire and maintain truck drivers.

It is unlikely that there is a “one size fits all” solution. Every owner-operator and fleet will be different. The point is to formulate an efficient solution to the resolve the scarcity of drivers/owner-operators. A solution is essential since trucking is a huge part of our economy.