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Supply Chain News: Now Truck Driver Shortage Said to Threaten the Economy


High Rates Hitting Bottom Lines, While Capacity Crunch Slowing Order to Cash Cycles

July 2, 2018
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Corporations across the US have been citing rising transportation costs as putting a hit on profits since the second half of 2017, and the bad news just keeps getting worse.

For example, the Cass Linehaul Index, which measures US per mile truckload rates before fuel surcharge and other accessorials, was up 9% year-over-year – the largest monthly jump since the index was created in January 2005.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

Lifestyle issues continue to be a huge issue – and why so many drivers flame out after just a few weeks – or even days – on the road.

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This scenario of course is the combination of several factors, starting with a strong economic environment that is pushing freight volumes up. That jump in demand, however, is coming with a severe driver shortage that means carriers can't add capacity to handle the higher freight volumes.

Carriers aren't sitting still. Every week brings news of new programs to raise driver pay at carriers – sometimes to attract new drivers, but just as often to retain the ones they have. For example, just last week Central Oregon Truck Co. said it has implemented a pay structure that gives new drivers $65,000 a year in base pay and experienced drivers more than $90,000 a year in pay – much higher than the $50,000 or so national average for truckload drivers.

This is creating a unvirtuous cycle – one that not only may lead to still higher costs for shippers, but could actually put a hurt on the currently humming US economy.

The higher wages are not luring more drivers into the industry. The driver shortage is in fact growing even with the pay hikes, now at some 63,000, up from 50,000 in 2017, according to ATA estimates - and some say those numbers are low and likely to spike far higher in coming years.

The Washington Post recently noted that "Already, delivery delays are common, and businesses such as Amazon, General Mills and Tyson Foods are raising prices as they pass higher transportation costs along to consumers. On a recent call with investors, a Walmart executive called rising transportation costs the company's primary 'head wind.'"

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The rising shipping costs hit the bottom line, meaning shippers have less money to make investments that create jobs. What's more, the tight capacity means delays in shipping goods awaiting a carrier that can take the load, slowing down the order-to-cash cycle for companies.

"This is slowing down the economy already," said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, told the Washington Post. "If it takes me a week instead of two days to ship products from point A to B, I'm losing potential business."

At TDDS Technical Institute, an independent truck driver training school in Ohio, veteran teachers say they have never seen it this bad. There may be closer to 100,000 truck driver openings, school employees say, according to the Post article.

"As long as you can get in and out of a truck and pass a physical, a trucking company will take a look at you now," said Tish Sammons, a job placement coordinator at TDDS. Simmons added "I recently placed someone who served time for manslaughter."

Lifestyle issues continue to be a huge issue – and why so many drivers flame out after just a few weeks – or even days – on the road, the reason why turnover rates (lately at some 94% at truckload carriers) are so high.

"Trucking is seen as a last resort if people can't find another job," said Otto Smith, an admissions representative at TDDS. "We're a hidden diamond for people looking for work."

Do you think the current transportation environment could actually slow the US economy? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.


Your Comments/Feedback


driver, etc
Posted on: Jul, 02 2018
$50,000 a year; 70 hrs a week = $14 an hour. That's not a good paying job.

Stephen webster

Title, Virtual
Posted on: Jul, 07 2018
I think that the shortage will not cause a slow down as the truck drivers will come back when O.T.R. Truck drivers make $22.00u.s. per hour for all hours worked. Many truck drivers are doing other jobs that either pay more money or have better working conditions. A change of H.O.S. rules and overtime after 10 hours per day and minimum wage  rates and minimum freight rates will prevent a slow down.


Not Provided, Company
Posted on: Jul, 12 2018
Pay the drivers more. Amazon can just give the boss a little less money. 

Pete Powell

Driver Training Coordinator, Danville Area Community College
Posted on: Jul, 13 2018
When product doesn't move across our country as quickly as it is needed it will definitely slow down the economy.  I'm afraid the driver shortage will only get worse as I get more calls from companies needing drivers than I get calls from people wanting a CDL.  I keep seeing companies that never used to take students now taking students because of the shortage.  The news for students with pay and job openings gets better and better, unfortunately my class numbers are still low and from what I'm hearing from recruiters most schools are struggling with low numbers.  If the driver shortage keeps getting worse I'm afraid the industry will quickly start moving toward autonomous vehicles to move freight. 

Formerly in Trucking

mgr, Viking
Posted on: Jul, 28 2018
I get a couple of things from these so called driver shortages - 1) Suppressing the pay of drivers to keep supply chain costs low!  i.e. increased driver pay will increase the costs of goods.   Gee, imagine the driver satisfaction, if the driver's wages had kept up with inflation - 2-3 % per year.

Secondly, why do these folks - the media, the ATA, trucking companies, etc think that drivers are not subject to basic economics - supply and demand?  The ATA and Costello have been complaining about a driver shortage for the last couple of decades!  But,  if there truly was a driver shortage - Driver compensation would be skyrocketing!  Does anyone remember when oil production (supply) did not meet demand and we were paying $4-5 per gallon or almost double prior the imbalance to supply and demand equilibrium.

I read in another article saying a fairly good size OTR carrier was increasing pay to 40-49 cents per mile.  Heck, I remember back in 2008 (when I left the industry), we were paying our line drivers 44 cents per mile, plus delay pay, plus drop and pick pay, paid for motels on overnight runs, had health benefits, matching 401-k and paid vacations.  Any wonder why OTR carriers are having a hard time filling their tractors?



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