What a Trucker Shortage Means for the Retail Ecosystem

The American trucking industry is in the midst of a major crisis. An industry that reported more than $700 billion in revenues in 2017 has been plagued by a shortage of workers for more than a decade. Now, employers and shipping companies are getting creative recruiting new, experienced drivers to make sure their orders are fulfilled on time and efficiently.

There are several reasons for the decline in workforce throughout the years, some beyond control and others more self-inflicted. While female employment makes up 47% of the nation’s workforce, it only accounts for 6% of the trucking industry according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—a number that has only grown 1.5% over the last 15 years.

Another major inhibitor of new job fillings has been the stagnation in wage increases and benefits for drivers. An analysis by Business Insider found median trucker wages have decreased 21% on average and as high as 50% in some areas since the 1980s. There is also the factor of the increasingly aging workforce within the trucking industry.

The average age of truck drivers on the road is 55—10 years higher than other comparable industries like construction or manufacturing. This translates into a challenge shipping companies have in recruiting a newer, younger workforce.

While shipping companies compete for the best talent in an increasingly smaller hiring pool, Walmart announced it would be raising trucker wages nationwide and increasing a number of benefits for drivers across the board. The company restructured how it pays its drivers by increasing pay on several facets of the job to raise their annual salaries to more than $85,000 for the first year, with opportunities for growth in the future. This, along with an increase in paid vacation days and added incentives like safety and referral bonuses are ensuring the retail monolith is at an advantage recruiting workers.

Several problems remain, however, if the industry ever plans to recover. Other major problems in the industry include inefficient routes, delays at shipping ports, and poor living accommodations contributing to the decline in the job market. A consensus among the majority of truck drivers paints a simple, and important truth—this is not an easy job. With the trucking industry reaching a 20-year-high in shipping tonnage in 2018, there remains little doubt in the importance of maintaining and supplementing the workforce of this vital part of the American economy.

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