The trucking companies still can’t seem to find enough Class-A Commercial Driver License (CDL) qualified drivers. Also, if you believe the media and industry representatives, the worst of the trucker shortage still lies ahead and it’s tied to one of the things that long-distance truck driver hate most: the excessive wait times that they experience on a daily basis.
Truck Driver Shortage
Changes in our culture and the expectations of young people entering the jobs market rank highly among the causes for the growing shortage of drivers. Even though this is bad for everybody from trucking companies to consumers, the shortage of professional drivers shows no sign of going away.
The statistics show that there will be a shortage of 80,000 in the United States in the next few years. In Canada, the situation is perhaps worse, a shortfall of 20,000 truckers in a smaller industry. As senior drivers in both countries retire, young CDL candidates aren’t replacing them at rates that keep up.
If you’re a trucker now or thinking about a future life on the road, a shortage of drivers may not be such a bad thing for you. The law of supply and demand means that the higher the demand, the more you can profit from the service you supply.
Wait-Times Kill Driver Income
Like any career, trucking and the transportation industry have good points and bad. Driving a truck long distances over the road, and being away from home for days at a time, isn’t for everyone.
You face stringent state and Federal rules that limit the number of hours you can drive in any given period of time. Since you’ll probably earn your living by the mile as a trucker, every minute on the clock where you’re not moving is income that is lost for good.
Additionally, the requirement for electronic logging devices (ELDs) turns up the heat. Delays are frustrating, and the new ELD mandate is likely to mean longer wait times.
How to Avoid Wait Times as a Truck Driver
The idle time comes when drivers are waiting to drop off or pick up loads. It’s a painful burden when you’re paid by the mile, and that’s why it’s killing retention for trucking companies and driving costs up for customers.
Long wait times occur in specific situations, and they’re being made worse by the requirements of the ELD mandate. The whole logistics industry is under pressure to stay within the new rules.
The shortage is an opportunity for ambitious drivers and candidates, and you can use this to your advantage. You do have to pick and choose the job you sign up for and follow through with your assignments. It’s never good to just quit and hope to get hired again somewhere else. When you decide to move on, take action while you’re still working.
Look for jobs where the company controls loading, unloading, and books freight in advance. Full loads where you hook up and drop off single-cargo trailer loads will have better turn around times than LTL shippers where the depot managers struggle to fill your trailer before you roll.
Intermodal ports where giant ships load and unload thousands of containers at a time can be particularly congested. As your time in the industry and on the road grows, you’ll learn what to avoid and hear about opportunities that work out better for drivers like you.
Active Career Development
Fortunately, as a Class-A qualified driver, you are in a position to pick and choose what company you work for and what you’re willing to do. This strength doesn’t mean you can turn up at a depot and name your terms. What it does mean is that your CDL is more valuable than ever.
Once you have your Class-A license and you’ve cleared any contractual obligations to work off tuition fees, the road is yours. Be flexible and patient in your responses to frustrating situations and look ahead to the next opportunity.
As a new driver, you might have to compromise to get the training and experience so you can advance your career. With even a few months on the road that will change because it will bring you into contact with company recruiters who are attracted by your experience.
You Are Your Own Best Recruiter
Even though, as a trucker you get paid by the mile, the industry measures your experience by your months and years in the cab. Recruiters for trucking companies are always looking for experienced drivers.
However, you can’t assume that the promises they make will reflect the actual work environment of their employer. Don’t accept the word of recruiters at face value. The best way to avoid jobs with long wait-times and any other obstacles that drag down your income is to make informed decisions.
Talk to present and past employees directly, if you can. Check out trucker forums online and read reviews on sites like Glassdoor.com where you’re likely to get unfiltered opinions about employers.
Assert Your Independence and Build Your Resume
If you take the time to look for better truck driving opportunities, you’ll find them. Make the best of each job you choose and then move on when it suits you, adding certifications and endorsements as you go. As your career develops, you’ll be more valuable at each step along the way.
In the long-term, the way to fix the shortage is probably just to pay drivers for all of the work they do.
Wages and pay structures will have to change to attract more drivers eventually. Paying for time spent in congested traffic and waiting to load will remove a significant reason that truckers get frustrated and change careers. In the meantime, you can take the initiative and find the best possible role to suit your lifestyle and personality.
Trucking companies are actively seeking experienced drivers. Take the best job you can find now and then move on again when it suits you. By putting in the hours on the road, whether you’re clocking up miles or waiting to drop your trailer, you’re adding the experience that will build the truck-driving career that’s right for you.
- The shortage of drivers continues
- Regulations and the ELD mandate pile on the wait times
- The demand for drivers gives you options
- Be proactive and research your next career move carefully
- Experience and endorsements will bring the best trucking jobs to you
What do you like least about being a trucker? Share in the comments.
Geoff is a freelance writer at TruckersTraining.com with 20+ years of experience driving trucks and buses, dispatching, supervising, and training commercial driving teams. His expertise is writing topics on the transportation and trucking industry, and information technology trends.