Food Suppliers Desperately Seek Truck Drivers

Both trucker wages and consumer food prices are on the rise.

June 22, 2021

Trucks without drivers

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Food suppliers are boosting both trucker wages and food prices as they struggle to find drivers to transport goods, according to

Every day, Regional Supplemental Services, an outsourcing company that places truckers, receives calls from desperate Fortune 500 companies that need to move perishable food.

"I've never seen drivers get paid what they are paid today," said Rich Jennings, vice president, Regional Supplemental Services. "They are getting well into the six figures, and they can easily make $3,000 a week."

Chefs' Warehouse, which is based in the Bronx, couldn’t find local drivers. So, the company hired truckers from Alabama and is housing them in Bronx hotels. "Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine we'd be doing this—putting people up in hotels to work for us," said Christopher Pappas, CEO, Chefs’ Warehouse.

Pappas said prices across its 55,000 products rose 7% on average in the first quarter of 2021. In a normal year, this would be between 2% and 3%, he said. The biggest price hikes included a 54% increase for 35-pound tubs of canola and soybean fry oil, 30% for cases of kosher salt, chocolate, and olive oil and 20% for meat.

A lack of truckers isn't the only thing pushing up food prices for consumers. The current shipping crisis, falling food production and a shortage of farm, retail, and hospitality workers is causing foodservice operators to increase prices of items like chicken wings and burritos.

Moody's analyst Mark Zandi said that average prices for truck transportation were up 10% in April year over year—the strongest growth in a decade—and that had a big impact on food products because transportation makes up a large portion of the producer’s costs.

A two-part NACS Daily series recently examined the truck driver shortage. Read “Trucker Shortage Hits Home” and “Higher Pay for the Long Haul” to learn more about what’s behind the shortage.