Why Is There a Truck Driver Shortage? The Truth & Causes

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Since 2005, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) has been sounding the alarm of an imminent shortage of drivers in the long haul freight industry. Early discussion about a possible shortage of drivers stretches back to the 1980s. Today, trucking accounts for 72.5% of total freight moved in the U.S. and store shelves remain stocked. So where is this truck driver shortage?

Is the Truck Driver Shortage Real?

Determining whether the truck driver shortage is real is a hotly-debated topic in the trucking industry. The answer comes down to how you look at the problem.

New drivers are always coming into the industry, eager to give trucking a try. However, the problem is that most of them don’t remain at the first company where they receive their training, or they fall prey to predatory practices. 

So, the trucking shortage is real at the individual business level, where companies are struggling to keep drivers for the full duration of their careers. 

But, this shortage is difficult to perceive at the industry level. As a result, depending on how you look at the trucking industry, it can seem like there’s a deep driver shortage or that there is no shortage at all.

...the trucking shortage is real at the individual business level, where companies are struggling to keep drivers for the full duration of their careers. 

What Is Causing the Trucking Shortage?

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, a phenomenon across all sectors of the labor market has developed, which can be seen through trucking statistics changing periodically. Individuals are quitting their jobs en masse at unprecedented levels. This development has compounded the ongoing struggles for those companies who are already suffering from driver shortage issues, such as:

  • An aging average work force
  • Problems with work-life balance
  • Stagnant wages for company drivers
  • High employee turnover

Aging Demographics 

The average age of drivers in the trucking industry is 48 years old. Many drivers are approaching retirement age, and the industry is struggling to appeal to a younger demographic that could take the place of current drivers when they retire. Truck driver demographics also skew predominantly male, which significantly narrows the pool from which potential drivers may come. Women only make about 6% of the workforce in the trucking industry, showing how narrow the demographic pool is.

Non-Ideal Work-Life Balance

Large fleets typically operate on thin margins and push for the most out of their company drivers in an effort to offset their expenses. However, this approach, which has led to creating a non-ideal work-life balance for truck drivers, has directly contributed to the truck driver shortage. 

Practices such as:

  • Forcing drivers to remain continuously on the road for weeks at a time, sleep in their trucks, and work 60-70 hours a week
  • Forced dispatching—a practice where drivers have no choice in what they haul or where they travel
  • Implementing pay per mile schemes where the driver’s mileage is calculated in a way that benefits the company and deprives the driver of significant amounts of compensation over time
  • Granting drivers, on average, one day at home for every seven days spent on the road, plus a cap on how many days in a row that they can spend at home (usually four days max)

These are only a few of the many policies and practices of traditional trucking companies that directly contribute to poor retention rates and lead to shortages for the traditional trucking company.

Driver Perspective

“My worklife and home life balance is so much better sense coming on with CloudTrucks because I’m able to work when I want and be home when/if I need to.”

Dominique Maddox, 7 years of experience

Driver Perspective

“Since coming to cloud i have been home almost daily. And can definitely afford to take time off whenever i see fit.”

Michael Kasanda , 3 years of experience

Stagnant Trucking Wages

In the face of labor shortages and fierce competition for recruits, the wages and benefits of truck drivers have been on the rise in recent years. However, when you look at the larger time frame, these increases have fallen far short of historic trends in driver compensation. 

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a fleet or company truck driver is $47,130, which may seem significant compared to the overall median salary in the U.S. of $31,000. 

But, when you factor in inflation, the wage of truck drivers today has trended as much as 50% lower than wages in 1980. Furthermore, when you translate the industry standard of pay-per-mile into hours spent on the job, including time away from home and the practice of drivers sleeping in their trucks, company truck drivers earn as little as $8.33 per hour during a standard seven-day work week.

High Company Turnover

The trucking industry is leading the U.S. with one of the highest turnover rates at around 90%. That means that if companies have ten employees, they would have to fill three positions around three times per year. Most drivers leave within a year of starting for a company. 

In turn, large carriers become dependent on a steady stream of new recruits and a hard push to get maximum deliveries before these new recruits inevitably burnout. It’s a vicious cycle with no end in sight unless trucking companies have the foresight to make far-reaching changes to improve their retention rates.

Driver Perspective

“I don't believe there is a driver shortage. The problems lie in the inefficiency of shippers and receivers, as well as company driver retention.”

Michael Kasanda, 3 years of experience

How CloudTrucks Is Changing the Trucking Industry

graphic with information about the benefits of working with CloudTrucks

The key to maintaining a successful competitive edge is the willingness to adapt to change. The trucking industry has overwhelmingly been resistant to change when it comes to dealing with truck driver retention, and in companies most resistant to this change, truck driver shortage has become a big issue. 

CloudTrucks is embracing change and adapting to the needs of today’s truck drivers. While most of the trucking industry adheres to outdated practices, we are a next-generation company in the trucking industry, taking a high-tech approach and equipping each driver with all the tools they need to maximize their revenue stream. 

Rather than compensating drivers with a paltry per-mile compensation, we compensate drivers with the highest revenue-per-load percentage in the industry at 82%. This means our drivers clear $17,000 per month, on average (some are even higher).  

With our Schedule Optimizer, drivers are also able to better plan their routes to optimize their revenue while running the lanes of their choosing.

CloudTrucks is embracing change and adapting to the needs of today’s truck drivers.

We’ve made it our mission to inspire younger drivers to remain in the industry and to empower veteran truckers to break free of traditional trucking so that they can take their careers to the next level. With issues regarding truck driver shortages, CloudTrucks is adapting to these changes to help truckers all around. Although we have a minimum driver age of 25, this requirement allows young drivers to gain the 2.5 years of experience necessary for driving with CloudTrucks.

We are dedicated to tackling the problem of work-life balance by allowing drivers to not only browse and choose their own loads from our app, but also to have the option to not take any loads at all. Need more time at home? Want to run in a particular region of the country? Here at CloudTrucks, we are proud of our no forced-dispatch policy. 

If you’re ready to take your driving career to the next level, find out how to get started with CloudTrucks, or give us a call at ​​(469) 250-1214. 

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