The shipping industry faces different issues and challenges, but the biggest is the ongoing trucking shortage.

This problem is becoming more evident each year with the capacity shortage faced by the shipping industry. As demand for trucking capacity increases year-over-year, actual truck capacity growth slows down each year. This results in overcapacity issues and a delay in movement of containers. What can the industry do to combat this issue?

According to World Bank data, U.S. import and export traffic demand almost doubled between 2000 to 2016, with twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) traffic increasing from 28.3 million TEUs to 48.3 million TEUs in 2016. One of the biggest issues facing the trucking sector is demographics.

Source: UNCTAD

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of a trucker is around 55 years old.

With a big chunk of the work force retiring in 10-20 years, that will gravely affect the shipping industry if we do not replace them as soon as possible. Currently trucker availability starts around 3-5 days, and 5 days plus for some busier ports and inland port. This will become even more hectic as we face even less trucking capacity. With current working conditions, such as long hours on the road and time away from our family and friends, it is just not an attractive lifestyle for new recruits.

In order to make the trucking profession more attractive to new recruits, we should consider the following:

  • Improving Wage Packages: Similar to what the market does with gas prices, when supply is low, increase prices by providing comprehensive benefit packages such as health, dental, 401K, and tuition reimbursement options, all of which will be great for younger recruits.
  • Reducing Hours on the Road: Create a working environment that gives employees more time to be at home than on the road, leading to a more-balanced lifestyle.

Additionally, we should expand the overall candidate pool by doing the following:

  • Lowering the Federal Driving Age: Currently, 21 is the minimum age to get an interstate commercial license. Lowering this age will increase the pool of applicants available to fill vacancies.
  • Targeting Veterans: With many veterans looking to transition into a normal life with a fulfilling career, they will make great candidates for future truckers.

Autonomous trucking will play a big role, too.

In additional to the above, I also believe autonomous trucking will increase the overall trucker capacity, as it will compliment trucking jobs where people can focus locally instead of taking jobs that require driving long hours on roads far away from family and friends. This can help increase and maintain a lifestyle that is more attractive and sustainable to truckers. This will only happen if our government, and the public, push a plan to upgrade all infrastructure to be compatible with the safe and effective use of autonomous vehicles.

As the saying goes, “if you bought it, a truck brought it.”This shows how dependent we are on the trucking sector to move our goods.

There is no one solution for the ongoing trucking shortage, but this issue need our time and attention immediately.