The U.S. trucking industry is suffering from a crippling driver shortage. The reasons, say industry leaders, are too much regulation, an aging workforce, and a younger generation consisting entirely of lazy bums.
The situation has grown so acute there is now a Driver Shortage Clock in Times Square right next to the famous National Debt Clock. The Debt Clock says we owe about $18 trillion. The Shortage Clock says we’re missing 30,000 drivers.
The new Driver Shortage Clock was installed recently by Donald Trump after a load of particle board truss beams from Somalia failed to show up at a Park Avenue job site. When he learned that all three drivers at his selected port trucker, Abject Drayage, had quit, Trump commissioned the clock. “Actually, it’s not a clock,” Mr. Trump commented. “It’s more like a taxi meter.”
The driver shortage extends far beyond the East Coast ports.
“If we don’t get more people behind those wheels,” said U.S. Trucking Amalgamation President Robert “Bob” Roberts, “a lot of stuff isn’t going to show up.”
According to Roberts, 30,000 empty driver seats means 30,000 undelivered loads that could include Apple iWatches, Yoplait Yogurt, Kaytee Forti-Diet Hamster Food, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Bath Scrubber, Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemakers, Mr. Dudley Peppermills, Miss Jessie’s Super Slip Sudsy Shampoo, Mrs. Paul’s Crunchy Popcorn Fish, Hanson Aerospace Solid Rivets, Thunder Group Rubber Plungers, 80 tons of #67 Gravel, and Jiffy Pop.
“This is serious,” he said.
Why is there such a shortage of truck drivers?
One problem, said Roberts, is that the average age of drivers today is 82.
“As you might imagine, drivers are leaving the profession at a rapid rate,” said Roberts. “Current projections are that without an infusion of young blood, the average age of truckers in 2020 will be 95.”
However, driver recruiters report that 20- and 30-somethings have no interest in trucking.
“They’re a bunch of spoiled brats,” Roberts noted. “What do you expect of kids who went straight from SpongeBob SquarePants to Sex in the City?”
That’s one of the reasons the USTA is recommending the minimum age for interstate drivers be lowered to 14. “They’re certainly big enough by then,” Roberts explained, “and they’re out of that awkward ‘tween’ stage.”
In fact, 14-year-old drivers are now behind the wheel – though not in interstate commerce – in a Midwest test project.
“It’s kind of an afterschool program,” Roberts explained. “And so far, we’re pleased with the results. They can reach the pedals, see to drive, and just a few of them would bring that average driver age down to 70 or even lower!”
The USTA hasn’t put all its eggs in the young driver basket. The organization is also looking to recruit drivers from untapped sources.
“Potential drivers are everywhere,” Roberts said, citing examples like “prisons, rehab programs, and refugee camps around the world.”
Roberts also sees great potential in driverless trucks, though he expressed concern about a Shippers League program to develop truckless freight and self-delivering products.
“That’s going entirely too far,” he said.