The U.S. has suffered through 12 economic recessions since World War II, and No. 13 is on deck.
Tom Joyce, MUFG Securities Americas Managing Director, Global Head of Investment Banking Capital Markets Strategy, speaking at the American Trucking Associations Management Conference and Exhibition in San Diego this week, noted that inflation and labor shortages plaguing the U.S. are global problems, adding that nearly every major global economy is experiencing inflation well above target levels.
In 2023, trucking companies’ pricing will likely change, either for the better or worse. If the market continues to decline, trucking companies will have to lower their prices even further. If the industry experiences positive growth, the prices can rise to what they were before the decline.
With the high demand for freight, trucking jobs are in demand today. The American Trucking Association (ATA) reported a shortage of 80,000 drivers in 2021. Truck drivers are needed in America, so if you want a stable and well-paying profession, now is an excellent time to pursue a trucking career.
Carriers are experiencing high turnover rates due to low pay and uncertainty regarding the future of trucking. Many drivers are worried that they will be replaced with autonomous vehicles, and carriers are struggling to assure their drivers that they will still be employed in a few years.
Self-driving technology won’t endanger truck driver’s role, developers say. Those who become truck drivers today could retire as truck drivers in 40 or 50 years, according to industry experts. Job requirements, however, are expected to change significantly as Level 4 automation is adopted.
President Joe Biden wants to recruit more veterans and women to the trucking industry amid a national shortage of drivers that is making it harder to get products onto store shelves.
In unveiling a plan on Monday to beat the bushes for more truck drivers, Mr. Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg highlighted the critical role of truck drivers, especially during the pandemic when American families relied on them for deliveries of essential items like groceries and medicine.
“You can thank a truck driver for getting that to you,” Buttigieg said.
The industry in 2021 was short a record 80,000 drivers, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), a trade group. Long-haul drivers, who often face grueling routes and can be on the road for weeks at a time, are in especially short supply. According to the Transportation Department, roughly 300,000 truck drivers leave the profession every year. The COVID-19 pandemic only made the driver shortage worse because training and apprenticeship programs were either closed or limited their operations.
Nick Geale, vice president of workforce policy at ATA, said opening the industry to women, veterans and younger drivers, who are currently largely restricted from entering the profession, would help address labor challenges.
“The quality jobs are restricted to people who are 21 and older, so we lose an entire generation to construction, food service and other industries,” he told CBS MoneyWatch.
Roughly 70% of freight in the U.S. is delivered by trucks. Additionally, 80% of the country is entirely dependent on trucking for daily deliveries of essential goods like food, water, toilet paper, personal protective equipment and vaccines.
“Some companies have raised pay three times in one year, and that’s unheard of in the industry,” Geale said. “Signing bonuses are regularly available. If you have a good record and you want to drive a truck today, you can write your own ticket. It’s very much a pro-driver market right now between signing bonuses and raises across the board.”
In 2020, the median pay for heavy and tractor-trailer drivers was $47,130 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Not everyone agrees there is a shortage of qualified workers. Steve Viscelli, an economic sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, said there are sufficient numbers of Americans who’ve been trained and
hold the licenses required to drive trucks — they just don’t want to.
“The problem is really one of turnover and retention,” he said. “We do not have a shortage of people who have already been trained to drive these trucks. The industry just has a high-turnover system.”
He expects the supply-demand imbalance to resolve itself “when the economy goes into a recession and consumer spending lightens up.”
Ultimately, he believes the biggest draw for entry-level drivers is better jobs that initially don’t require them to be on the road for long periods of time initially.
“We have an historic opportunity to improve things for truck drivers,” Viscelli said.
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