For the trucking industry, the driver shortage is not news. The shortage has been building over the past few years, and is set to double in the next few years. As this problem expands, so do the demands on the health and safety of the drivers. Trucking remains one of the most dangerous jobs out there, and given the tight labor market, recruiting new drivers has only become harder.

Dangers on the road

Demand has increased for shipping over the road. Combined with the driver shortage, this increase in demand will increase shipping prices. In fact, analysts warn that increasing costs of shipping could have a ripple-effect over our economy.

It’s no surprise, then, that companies are trying to do more with fewer drivers to meet the demands of a two-day shipping world. Unfortunately, that can lead to dangerous situations on the road. Dangers faced by truckers include:

  • Health issues. Long, sedentary hours combined with poor nutrition creates a high rate of health issues like diabetes, digestive problems and high blood pressure.
  • Lack of sleep. The pressure on drivers is higher than ever, so many skip their sleep breaks, with predictable results. Not only does sleep deprivation add to health issues, it robs drivers of their mental alertness and judgment.
  • More accidents. The number of truck-involved accidents has risen with the driver shortage in recent years. Given the physical and mental toll from the two prior issues, this comes as no surprise.

Finding a solution

What can the trucking industry do to improve the health and safety of drivers? The obvious answer is shorter trips. Luckily, the changing economy has already lent itself to this strategy. More retailers are relying on a hub-based approach to create a local supply chain. This means shorter drives and more drivers being able to go home at night. But that is only part of the solution.

Recruiting move drivers

Any solution includes more drivers, but how can the industry attract new people? Potential workers often cite the trucker lifestyle as the main reason they are not interested in this job. The American Trucking Association has been working on this issue and introduced several recommendations in 2017. They advise trucking companies to compete in today’s labor market by doing the following:

  • Increase pay for drivers
  • Keep drivers closer to home
  • Recruit military veterans
  • Improved relationship with supply chain
  • An image “make-over”

Other recruitment possibilities include hiring more women and minority drivers. They are greatly underrepresented in the industry. The ATA would also like the government to consider changing regulations to lower the driving age for CDL drivers to 18, but that is a difficult sell given the dangers of the job. Industry talk of autonomous trucks has created a lot of interest, but such a solution is still years away.

Despite their flagging numbers, truck drivers are clearly still a critical part of our economy. New driver recruitment and a healthier lifestyle will be the keys to our economic success, as well as our driver safety.