Trucking represents the largest portion of the shipping industry, moving more than 70% of all U.S. freight and generating $719 billion in revenue in 2017. With an economy growing ever more dependant on shipping online goods, any inefficiencies in moving those goods to their intended destinations can spell catastrophe.
That’s why politicians and private industries are scrambling to solve the current trucker shortage. The trucking industry recently reported a growing labor shortage of 63,000 open positions this year, a number expected to more than double in coming years.
“This is slowing down the economy already,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. “If it takes me a week instead of two days to ship products from point A to B, I’m losing potential business.”
One of the significant barriers impeding the hiring of new truck drivers is the fact that many just don’t meet the qualifications for the job. Some trucking companies complain that only 1% to 2% of applicants meet their requirements.
To help deal with this issue, political leaders are rallying to try to pass legislation that loosens restrictions on truck drivers. “Later this year, FMCSA will begin implementing a pilot program to allow 18- to 20-year-old drivers that have training and experience in certain military occupational specialties to operate commercial vehicles in interstate commerce,” said Duane DeBruyne, a spokesperson for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a division of the Transportation Department.
One of the serious drawbacks of opening truck driving up to a younger generation, however, is the danger inherent in truck driving to begin with. There were over 1,000 fatalities among motor vehicle operators in 2016, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Being a commercial driver is 8 times more dangerous than being a law enforcement officer.
Additionally, Motor vehicle drivers ages 16-19 are nearly three times more likely than people over 20 to fatally crash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With these considerations looming over lawmakers and owners of trucking companies, it’s hard to say if a reasonable solution will find its way into the economy any time soon.