Growing Shortage of Commercial Truck Drivers: What’s Happening to Our Truckers?

Growing Shortage of Commercial Truck Drivers: What’s Happening to Our Truckers?

There is a shortage of people able and willing to drive commercial trucks in the United States today.  This problem is getting bigger each year.

Not only are experienced big rig and semi-truck drivers leaving the industry, but there aren’t a lot of people interested in truck driving as a career. 

The Truck Driver Shortage Problem

This may not sound like a big problem for everyone here in Indiana and Illinois, but it is.  This commercial truck driver shortage is endangering our roads and increasing the risk for serious truck crashes and fatal traffic accidents.

This week, we’re focusing on this problem and issuing a warning for everyone who’s sharing the roads with commercial trucks in our part of the country.

FMCSA Working to Get Military Veterans to Take the Wheel

Not that there aren’t steps being taken to try and solve this crisis. In October 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced awards of almost $1,000,000 in college grants designated to help train military veterans as commercial truck drivers.

Through its “Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training” grant program, money is being provided to schools around the nation to train new commercial truck drivers. Among them is a grant of $159,800 to Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois.

What’s going on here? This federal plan works to place veterans behind the wheel of semi-trucks moving cargo across the nation.  It helps to solve the growing problem of a lack of commercial truck drivers by getting military veterans as truck drivers out on the road.

“These men and women represent the absolute finest of our country, and with the help of programs like this, they will be prepared to be some of the safest commercial drivers on the road,” said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

That’s not all that FMCSA is doing to try and get military experience behind the wheel of commercial trucks.  There’s also an incentive to help military truck drivers transition easily into a civilian trucker career.

How? The agency is also in the process of amending its federal regulations regarding commercial driver’s licensure.  A final rule has been issued that will make it easier for military truck drivers to get a commercial motor vehicle driver’s license as a civilian.

The rule allows the veteran to get a waiver of the usual skills test as long as he worked as a commercial truck driver while on active duty.   The waiver can extend from 90 days to as long as a year.  Additionally, the new rule will allow states to take applications from active duty service members stationed in their state.  They can administer the state’s licensing test while the driver is still in military service.

Growing Need for Commercial Truck Drivers

These federal steps are good.  But they are not enough to fix things.  Right now, there’s a huge need for drivers who can take the wheel of cargo-hauling commercial trucks.

It’s a national crisis in the trucking industry – the lack of professional truck drivers.  And the problem is far from being solved.  It’s going to take years to get enough experienced truck drivers in those huge big rig truck cabs that drive alongside us on the interstates.

How bad is the shortage?  Well, according to numbers compiled by the American Trucking Association in 2015, there were 48,000 truck driver openings left unfilled that year.  And, if their trucking industry analysis is correct, that need is going to rise for the next decade.

By 2025, there’s going to be a need for 890,000 new commercial truck drivers to man the big rigs and move these loaded semi-trucks along their routes.

Reasons There Aren’t Enough Truckers On the Road

Why don’t we have enough professional drivers for these commercial trucks?  Arguments can be made on why this has happened.  Most agree on several factors that have contributed to the problem.

There are two big problems here:  first, experienced truck drivers are leaving the job.  Second, there is insufficient interest in truck driving as a career to bring in new drivers to fill the industry’s demand.

According to a recent article in the Huffington Post entitled “Why There’s A Shortage Of Truck Drivers In America,” the reasons for the unpopularity of truck driving today includes the work itself.

It’s not easy to drive those big trucks on long transportation routes.  It means long hours behind the wheel.  It is time away from home and family.

But the biggest issue seems to be the truck driver’s pay check.  Truckers aren’t being paid enough to stay on the job, so the savvy truckers are finding other careers and potential newbie drivers are opting for something else.  For details, read the HuffPo article including its analysis of how truck driver pay compares with inflation rates for the past 15 years.

What Does This Mean for You and Me, Driving the Roads of Indiana and Illinois? Danger.

Why should we all be concerned about the lack of commercial truck drivers for the trucking industry?  Well, it’s because the lack of experienced truckers doesn’t mean that the trucking companies aren’t going to find ways to meet their quotas.  They will find a way to get their cargo moved across the country.

The lack of experienced truck drivers driving big rigs, semi-trucks, and tractor-trailers in Indiana and Illinois means that there’s going to be more and more danger of serious and fatal truck crashes.

Just as the research is predicting an increase in the trucking industry, there’s going to be a need for those big companies to move their product as best they can.  And this is where it gets dangerous.

In our next post, we’ll delve into how the danger is increasing for all of us and some things we can do to try and minimize the risk of a serious truck accident in Illinois or Indiana.  Let’s be careful out there!

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