US Economy

The US needs 50,000 truck drivers to avoid a shipping squeeze

America needs 50,000 truck drivers ASAP
America needs 50,000 truck drivers ASAP

Retailers are facing a shipping squeeze, and the trucking industry just can't keep up.

According to the American Trucking Associations, there's a shortage of roughly 50,000 truck drivers across the country. And it's hitting both businesses and consumers in the wallet.

Companies are complaining about how the driver shortage is impacting their business. Meanwhile, the cost of convenient shipping is starting to catch up with consumers.

Amazon recently hiked its Prime membership to $119 a year from $99 a year. The retail giant said one of the reasons for the price jump was increased shipping costs.

But the driver shortage isn't just because of demand created by online shopping. There's a lot going on behind the scenes, according to Bob Costello, chief economist at American Trucking Associations.

"We have a demographics problem, demand is strong, trucks haul over 70 percent of the freight tonnage, our average age is very high, [and] we don't have enough females," said Costello.

"So much of it revolves around demographics."

To be fair, the trucking lifestyle isn't exactly an easy sell. Truck drivers work long hours, they're away from home for weeks on end, and oftentimes sleep inside the trucks themselves.

Now, there's a new technology limiting the hours a truck driver can work in a given day – electronic logging devices (ELDs).

A Tesla Semi electric transport truck.
Source: Tesla

And then there's Elon Musk. He's using Tesla to develop a fully electric semi truck that could change the industry. He's not the only one looking to disrupt trucking as we know it.

Goldman Sachs estimates that self-driving cars could cost American drivers up to 25,000 jobs a month. But the trucking industry isn't quite ready to go autonomous yet.

"Driverless trucks are decades away," Costello said. "That is not the solution."

The ATA says we'll need 898,000 more drivers over the next decade to keep up with growth and demand. It's not exactly clear how the trucking industry is going to shake out.

But until the shortage issue is resolved, companies and consumers alike will likely be stuck with the trickle-down effects of this driver shortage.