Spurred on by the global pandemic, truck driver shortages continue to squeeze capacity across supply chains. It’s one more hurdle to clear amid a holiday shipping season with its fair share of challenges.
The trucking industry has seen a historic downturn in available drivers this year. Tens of thousands have left the profession for good in the wake of the pandemic and ensuing recession but the need for truck transit hasn’t stopped. After the springtime slowdown forced many drivers out of the business, a summer and fall bounce-back spurred by e-commerce growth has brought back high demand for trucking services.
It’s a perfect storm. The U.S. was already dealing with a driver shortage heading into early 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, economic shutdowns only accelerated the driver availability downturn. Then, as lockdowns lifted, consumer spending spiked, and trucking volume soared with it. According to Business Insider, some 88,000 drivers lost their jobs in April 2020 alone. Per the JOC, the industry has seen a further 4.4 percent decrease in available drivers since July.
In the months since the drop off, the U.S. has seen a rapid resurgence in demand for goods. E-commerce has flourished, U.S. ports have seen record import numbers, and trucking services are in high demand. The rebound has brought back some driver positions, but the industry is still operating at a substantial shortage of drivers. According to the JOC, for-hire trucking companies had 55,800 fewer employees in November 2020 than November 2019. The low availability is causing adverse effects across the industry.
In the backdrop, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 remains a concern for truck drivers. Various groups are lobbying to get drivers to the front of the line for receiving the newly approved Pfeizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. Plus, drivers themselves are tasked with supporting the vaccine distribution effort.
Outside of increased pay, shippers are looking for ways to mitigate the risks and challenges of the driver shortage. Agility and adaptation by shippers can help remaining drivers work more efficiently. Experts have encouraged more flexibility with drivers at pick-up and delivery. Other measures like allowing drivers to park on site can help drivers maximize their available driving hours.
Scarbrough Transportation is closely monitoring the driver shortage and other challenges to domestic trucking. Contact us today to help navigate your current transportation challenges.