The lack of drivers comes at a time when fewer people are out of work, according to a near-record low unemployment rate.
The trucking industry has faced an aging workforce for several years, said Kevin Burch, president and partner of Jet Express in Dayton and immediate past chairman of the American Trucking Association. He said the industry could be even busier, but many companies are struggling to find qualified drivers to complete routes. Many trucking firms are reluctant to order new vehicles if they can’t find someone to drive them, Burch said.
“There’s nothing worse than having a brand new truck sitting against a fence,” he said.
Turnover is also a challenge in the industry, with a turnover rate nearing 100 percent as truck drivers jump from one company to the next for slightly better pay or an earlier shift, he said. Many drivers don’t want to work overnight or over long distances, but trucking firms still need a way to fill those shifts.
“The U.S. economy works around the clock,” Burch said. “Everyone wants to work nine to five, and that’s one of the biggest challenges we face.”
Lawmakers are working on some changes to help alleviate the shortages, including allowing younger drivers under supervision from more experienced drivers to work across state lines, he said.
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