The biggest hurdle in the American supply chain: not enough truckers.


Long hours and uncomfortable working conditions are causing a driver shortage, exacerbating shipping delays in the country.

Faced with $ 50,000 student debt, Michael Gary dropped out of college and started working as a truck driver in 2012. He said he could afford to pay the bills and cut his expenses if he lived in the truck.

However, over the years, the work created tensions in their relationships. He spent weeks away from home and couldn’t prioritize his health: it took him more than three years to make an appointment with an optometrist, having to cancel it several times due to his changing schedules. He resigned on October 6.

“I had no personal life other than driving the truck,” said Gary, 58, who lives in Vancouver, Washington. “In the end, I was fed up .”

The supply of truckers has been in short supply for years. Still, a wave of retirements added to those who only quit accepting less stressful jobs exacerbates the US supply chain crisis, which has led to empty shelves in stores, shoppers terrified in the holiday season, and traffic jams at ports. Warehouses across the country are overloaded with products, and delivery times for many goods now take months rather than days or weeks.

A report released last month by the American Trucking Association (ATA) estimated that 80,000 drivers are needed in the industry, a record number that the association says could double by 2030 as more carriers move. Jubilee.

Problems in the supply chain are due to several factors, including an extraordinary increase in product demand and the closures of factories abroad. But the situation has been exacerbated by a shortage of truckers and worsening conditions across the transportation sector, which have made it even more difficult for consumers to get the things they want when they want them.

This phenomenon wreaks havoc throughout the economy, slowing growth, driving up consumer prices, and undermining President Joe Biden’s approval rating. However, the White House has struggled to offer a solution.

On Tuesday, he announced a series of measures to alleviate problems in the supply chain, such as allowing ports to redirect other federal funds to efforts to mobilize pending shipments. As part of the plan, the Port of Savannah could reallocate more than $ 8 million to convert its existing inland facilities into temporary container warehouses in Georgia and North Carolina to help ships unload their cargo more quickly.

This came after Biden’s announcement last month that important ports and private companies would start operations in 24-hour shifts in an attempt to mitigate the deadlock. However, preliminary results suggest that trucking continues to be a significant obstacle in this initiative, increasing agglomeration in ports.

Los Angeles and Long Beach port managers stated that initially, at least, few other truckers showed up to take advantage of the overtime.

Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said his port had told the White House in July that about 30 percent of the spaces that are designated to truckers every day in the harbor were not being used, due to primarily due to the shortage of drivers, frames to haul loads. Warehouse workers to unload products from trucks.

“Here in the port complex, with all these cargoes, we need more drivers,” Seroka said.

The $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the House of Representatives last week could help cushion shortages. The legislation includes a three-year pilot training program that would allow commercial truck drivers to cross state lines starting at age 18. In most states, those under 21 can obtain a commercial vehicle driver’s license. Still, federal regulations prohibit them from driving on interstate routes.

However, industry experts noted that this program was unlikely to remedy the immediate problem. It could take months to kick in, plus that many people don’t want to drive trucks.

The shortage has alarmed transportation companies, who say there are not enough young people to replace workers who are retired from the workforce because of their age. In addition, stereotypes related to work, the isolated lifestyle, and the new generations’ focus on studying for four-year college degrees have made it difficult to recruit drivers. As a result, trucking companies have struggled to retain their workers: turnover rates have reached as high as 90 percent for large carriers.

In response, companies have increased wages. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly income for long-distance drivers has increased about 21 percent since the beginning of 2019. Last year, commercial truck drivers earned an average salary of $ 47,130.

To finance these wage increases, transportation companies have raised their rates. Jon Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation, stated that the driver shortage has contributed to rising costs for retailers, something that consumers, in turn, resent with the rise of some prices in the stores.

“We are seeing an increase in costs at every level of the transportation supply chain,” said Gold. “From maritime transport to rail and land, the costs are increasingly high.”

Derek J. Leathers, president and CEO of Werner Enterprises in Omaha, Nebraska, which employs about 9,500 drivers, said their services cost 15 percent more compared to pre-pandemic levels, as wages have risen. Drivers and equipment costs.

The company is trying to hire around 700 truck drivers – many more than the 300 it recruited before the pandemic – as growing demand and retirements left the company with few workers. Since the beginning of 2020, it has raised the remuneration of its drivers by 20 percent and expanded the number of driving academies it operates.

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