CHICAGO, Ill. — The pandemic has led to a global shortage of truck drivers.
Stagnant wages, uncertainty and safety concerns have contributed to the shortage, but some employers are now willing to pay big bucks to those willing to strap in for the long haul.
The truck driver shortage has increasingly been a problem for decades. But with the pandemic causing manufacturing hubs to shut down, cargo and freight demand was affected as well.
“When we shuttered manufacturing and we shut down all the imports and exports and everything came to a screeching halt, everyone turned in their trucks,” said Jim Grundy, the CEO of Sisu Energy.
The Texas-based bulk commodity carrier provides transportation services for companies like Amazon and J.B. Hunt.
“You’ve seen anywhere from 40 to 50% of the entire driver pool leave the industry just in the last 12 months,” said Grundy. “It's been substantially damaging to various companies and you're seeing rates correspond, which then get handed off to the end user.”
The pandemic also has been a major speed bump in the training, testing and licensing of commercial truck drivers.
“There's no one coming through these trucking programs for schools right now,” Grundy said. “The biggest issue is the juice isn't worth the squeeze for the younger generation of folks.”
Wages have been the biggest obstacle.
A recent Centerline study shows 75% of truck drivers said competitive pay is the top factor to take a job. Half said existing wages are not competitive enough.
But late last year, wages started drastically changing as requests from companies to move freight spiked.
“Folks at our company are making upwards of $12,000, $13,000 a week gross revenue,” said Grundy. “And that's really an anomaly compared to what's happening around the globe.”
Grundy says he hopes the lure of potentially making up to $500,000 a year will bring drivers back to keep the industry rolling forward.