Companies are complaining they can't find enough truck drivers to ship their stuff because of Amazon

Key Points
  • Several executives have recently mentioned the impact of trucker shortages on their business, according to a CNBC analysis using financial search engine AlphaSense.
  • While demand for truckers has gone up with the rise of e-commerce, a federal mandate for electronic logging devices that took effect in December is limiting the number of hours drivers can work.
Companies are complaining they can't find enough truck drivers to ship their stuff because of Amazon

Several companies, including chipmaker Nvidia and toymaker Hasbro, are reporting how a shortage of truck drivers is affecting their business.

"Trucking is right now … experiencing a severe crisis," Robert Csongor, vice president and general manager of automotive at Nvidia, said during the company's March 27 investor day. "There's a shortage of trucking drivers driven by the Amazon age."

Trucks account for more than 70 percent of all tonnage moved in the U.S., according to the American Trucking Association. A shortage of drivers has persisted for years due primarily to an aging workforce and poor compensation for the long hours away from home coupled with increasing demand led by Amazon, according to industry experts.

E-commerce has had a "huge effect," said Steve Viscelli, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studies labor markets and automation.

Adding to the shortage, a federal mandate for electronic logging devices that took effect in December is limiting the number of hours drivers can work. Previously, a driver may have started the clock only after picking up goods from a warehouse. But now the devices are taking into account all hours on the road, which can quickly push a driver past the legal limit of consecutive work hours.

"There is a lot of uncertainty within the trucking world right now about what the effects of the [electronic logging devices] mandate's going to be in the long term," Viscelli said.

Truck driver shortage projected to triple within a decade, if nothing changes

Source: American Trucking Associations

"As soon as these logging devices were implemented, it resulted in a 10 percent drop in productivity because these truckers were obviously spending more time driving than they should have been," Csongor said, according to a transcript from Thomson StreetEvents that CNBC found using financial search engine AlphaSense.

The trucker employee shortfall was expected to reach a record 50,700 last year, and possibly climb to 174,000 by 2026, according to a report published in October by the American Trucking Associations.

The driver shortage isn't necessarily a bad thing for all companies. Railroads are apparently benefiting.

"When you look at the current demands for trucks and the scarcity of them, the market is terrific for us," Dean M. Piacente, vice president of intermodal sales and marketing at CSX, said during the railroad company's March 1 investor day.

"We saw the market change about midyear last year and into the fall. And the industry saw the best peak demand in over a decade in the intermodal business," Piacente said, according to a Thomson StreetEvents transcript from AlphaSense.

Here's a selection of comments some other executives have made in the last 90 days about truck driver shortages. All remarks are from Thomson Reuters transcripts and accessed using AlphaSense.

Hasbro's CFO:

We're seeing [higher freight expenses]. A lot of it is really coming in the U.S. and it's a little bit throughout Europe as well. And it's really coming from the trucking industry and higher due to the new electronic logging device rules and driver shortages.

Sprouts Farmers Market CEO:

Most of you know the issue is the logging device mandate. It's creating some shortages in the industry on trucking. So for us, on our soft distribution side, our team has always done a fantastic job on making sure that we were right in the guardrails of the law, of making sure that we were logging devices. So on the soft distribution side, we've not seen any impact. We don't have any impact from there.

Universal Forest Products CEO:

Rail service and truck transportation remain as wildcards to pricing because of transportation equipment and service shortages. These factors will require us to carry higher levels of inventory to meet our customers' needs.

Volvo CEO, on its Mack truck line:

And what is really, really encouraging to hear is that those [Mack] trucks are loved by the drivers. And I think that has been extremely important for us ... that both for Volvo and for Mack, given the fact that the driver shortages and the truck for driver[s] will be [an] increasingly important decision-making part of different feeds today. So that is very good to hear and some other very good receptions to that.

HeidelbergCement CEO:

I had a long discussion with our guys last —10 days ago in Houston, yes, after the hurricane. We have a clear shortage on truck drivers. We have it also in Germany. We have it even in the U.K. We have in the Czech Republic. We have it in Poland. Truck drivers are short.

And in the U.S., the situation is even worse because Trump is closing the borders. The South Americans are no longer — or the Mexicans no longer to enter, and they are the, typically, guys who do the asphalt jobs and who do work on the construction site. And that's why we have a clear shortage on drivers. It's a clear issue. So you're right. But I think we can manage that.