Driver Shortage?

We all know that one of the mainstream messages being buzzed around is the impending and massively disrupting driver shortage in the trucking, transportation and freight industry.  Is this true or just a good headline?

As with any complex question involving hundreds of thousands of data points — it’s best to look at the numbers.  The American Trucking Association did an interesting study on current trends in driver shortages back in 2014.  According to their work and predictions,  the ATA stated that due to the high turnover rates in the full truckload side, and the aging driver population in general – we can expect the driver shortage to grow by 20,000 to 30,000 points each year.

With that in mind – QF looked at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s database of registered US carriers, their number of power units as well as driver counts – and measuring both of those by the number and year that each were added.

What we see is a considerable spike of both drivers and equipment being added to the registry in 2016.  Of course – the above mentioned study was done three years earlier, and could have possibly missed the prediction by some margin.  Or this could have been massive turnover and the registry doesn’t track how many drivers left – just the total head count at census time.  Would be interesting to delve into that idea on a later post.



What we see is a large jump in both drivers being added to companies and tractors or equipment being purchased.  This also coincides with the increased economic growth and subsequent freight totals so far in Q1 2017.

If a nuanced guesstimate has any place in this analysis — I would say that driver shortages will still continue to trend upwards, but not at the rate that was initially expected.  With 24% of drivers being within ages 35 and 44 as well as roughly 30% between 45 and 54 — coupled with the fact that 401(k)’s still haven’t bounced back from the recession, along with union pensions quickly evaporating — I would wager that we see the average age of US commercial drivers rise over the next five years.  There will be more elderly gentlemen sticking around for that paycheck, and not because they can’t stand to be at home with their wives.




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