ARLINGTON, Va. – For the last several years, the trucking industry has been grappling with a shortage of drivers. With the economy strengthening, that shortfall has now become severe enough to impact prices and delivery, USA Today reports.
Self-driving trucks may alleviate some of the crunch, but won’t solve the worsening problem of fewer drivers, as baby boomers retire and fewer millennials take up the slack. In addition, on April 1, enforcement began on a requirement that all trucks have electronic devices to make sure drivers comply with driving limits.
“We’ve probably never had a situation like we have today, where the demand is strong and capacity is constrained,” said Bob Costello, chief economist of the American Trucking Associations (ATA). The association estimates the industry needs an additional 51,000 truck drivers across the country, with the driver shortfall bumping up to close to 100,000 by 2021.
A few months ago, Tom Hayes, CEO of Tyson Foods, informed analysts that the shortage of drivers would increase costs by more than $200 million, which the company would pass along to food retailers. ATA is supporting congressional legislation that would reduce the minimum age for interstate driving from 21 to 18, in the hopes of recruiting potential drivers straight out of high school.