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Is There Really a Driver Shortage?

The American Trucking Association (ATA) estimated a driver shortage of nearly 50,000 at the end of 2015. But what does this shortage really mean?

There is likely no lack of people who would be willing to take on the job of over-the-road (OTR) freight hauling, but there are some serious barriers to filling the shortfall and creating a career track for drivers. Further, drivers do not see a shortage; in fact, many believe there is a glut of available OTR drivers driving down rates and making competition for available jobs seem fierce.

Driver Shortage

Here’s what drivers can do to help themselves get more work.

Get further education and certification

Because many OTR jobs require specialized experience and certification, not every professional truck driver can fill every role. This leads to a driver shortage in the skills area that can perform certain jobs, which leads to the perception of a shortage.

Drivers can help themselves by getting certification beyond just a commercial license. Training in hauling animals, automobiles, and liquid freight can increase driver employability — when more drivers can take on these jobs, the shortfall will seem less severe.

Use a load board service

These load board subscription sites will help connect you with companies that need your expertise, whether it’s a type of freight, a location, or some other work experience. Load matching services like 123Loadboard can help you keep busy and avoid dry spells.

Also, consider downloading mobile load board apps to help you locate additional loads. One of the most popular mobile load board apps is available for free download at:

Stick together

If a company you’re hauling for lets you know they’re looking for someone else to help out on a big job, recommend other drivers you know. They will likely return the favor in the future.

Don’t be afraid to discuss your rates. Open communication with other drivers helps ensure that you’re earning a fair rate and helps support transparency in pay.

Don’t underbid

When you’re bidding on work, you need to ensure that your expenses will be covered and that you’ll earn a fair wage. If you underbid and get the gig, you’ll likely be forcing yourself past your limits to earn well — or feel unappreciated and frustrated that you’re working so hard for so little pay.

While there is some responsibility on the driver, carriers can do a lot to support them, whether they’re employees or independent contractors.

Pay well to help reduce driver shortage

The ATA estimates a huge increase in need for drivers — and many drivers will likely be retiring soon. Companies can ensure that more people want to enter the field by ensuring that pay and work conditions are fair.

Consider compensating drivers for wait time

Many drivers have to wait at docks or terminals for their loads to be ready and just generally spending a lot of time sitting in the truck. But, much of this time is considered off-book, so they are not compensated. If a driver is doing work that is required to pull freight, they should be compensated.

Provide education and certification benefits to entice newcomers and eliminate driver shortage

If you need more drivers who have specialized certifications, try providing incentives for your current drivers to get these certifications. Offer new drivers a stipend to pay for the certifications needed. If the certification requires them to spend a certain number of hours on the road, consider paying a rate to tag along with a more experienced driver and get the hours they need to get their certification.

There is tension between carriers who say there’s a shortage of drivers and drivers who say there’s not. However, freight needs to be hauled, and we need people to do it. By working together to improve conditions for drivers and ensure that there is an educated and experienced pipeline of new drivers, we will all benefit.

If you are a professional truck driver looking for a load, try a load board.

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