According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), there are currently 51,000 vacant truck driver positions open in the U.S. This can be attributed to a number of factors, including the large number of older truckers retiring, millennials’ general lack of interest in trucking, and the extremely high turnover rate of the field. This is a problem that impacts the entire nation — trucks carry over 70 percent of domestic freight, meaning that an insufficient number of drivers will drive up shipping costs. Amazon alone has already seen a 38 percent increase in shipping costs in the first quarter of 2018.
In an effort to reverse this driver shortage, the trucking industry is attempting to recruit a more diverse set of drivers. While their efforts have resulted in a moderate increase in diversity, a significant amount of progress is still needed. Today, two of three truck drivers in the U.S. are white males; the average age for drivers is 49 years old. As a result, trucking industry recruiters are honing in on a few specific demographic groups:
- High School students: One of the most hotly contested proposals is to target recent high school graduates for recruiting efforts, which would require the minimum age of driving a truck to be decreased from 21 to 18 years old. Because traditional high school students are typically not old enough to join the industry upon graduating, they often have no choice but to pursue other career paths instead. Unless they want to restart their careers or leave their field upon turning 21, the trucking industry loses them as a potential driver. This suggestion is understandably controversial, however, because of teenagers’ much higher likelihood of crashing or making a driving mistake than adults — the thought of 18-year olds behind the wheel of a large freight truck evokes a lot of concern from other drivers on the road.
- Women: Today, only six percent of commercial truck drivers are women. This is caused in part by the “prevailing notion that the road is not an appropriate — or safe — place for women.” Ellen Voie, president of the Women in Trucking Association, hopes to counter this with marketing strategies designed to appeal to women and break down these misconception.
- Veterans: Transitioning service members of the military often struggle to find employment upon returning to the United States. Knowing this, some truck companies have worked closely with Hiring Our Heroes, an initiative run by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, to assist veterans in finding employment opportunities within the industry. This have the potential to be particularly beneficial for public safety due to many military employees with previous experience driving large military trucks.
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see whether or not the trucking industry is successful in its diversity-targeted recruitment efforts. In the meantime, it will be important that they make sure to prioritize public safety over quickly filling vacant positions with inexperienced drivers.
Michael Leizerman is a truck accident attorney specializing in catastrophic multi-axle collisions. He understands all facets of truck accident litigation; including federal regulations, drug and alcohol testing and hours of service requirements. He has authored a treatise entitled Litigating Truck Accident Cases and often educates other attorneys on trucking laws and regulations. You can learn more about Leizerman & Young by visiting their website, www.truckaccidents.com.