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US truck driver shortage increases because of Covid crisis

THE loss of some 150,000 truck drivers since July is a 'major contribution' to the dislocation that continues to plague US trucking and supply chains, reports IHS Media

07 December 2020 - 04:54
THE loss of some 150,000 truck drivers since July is a 'major contribution' to the dislocation that continues to plague US trucking and supply chains, reports IHS Media.

The number of drivers at carriers with up to 100 trucks fell by more than 150,000 from July to October, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).



Third-party logistics provider Jeff Tucker, CEO of shipper risk management firm QualifiedCarriers.com and Tucker Company Worldwide, said US shippers face a severe shortage of drivers as the Covid crisis continues to sideline thousands of workers.



Not only is there a year-on-year shortfall in trucking employment numbers - the first in more than a decade - but the number of truck drivers at smaller fleets dropped precipitously just as freight demand rose, US data shows, Mr Tucker said.



'Overall, we've seen a 4.4 per cent decrease in the number of truck drivers since July,' he said. 'It seems that when the federal subsidies ran out, a number of drivers just folded, This is the biggest downturn I've seen.'



Mr Tucker and Qualified Carriers began tracking US driver and carrier numbers in 2012 to determine the actual number of active carriers.



'Those were brutal months,' he said. 'When freight started picking up in June and July, it could have been that by July the cash position of these carriers was so bad they couldn't afford to keep these drivers on,' he said.



According to non-seasonally adjusted US Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) data, for-hire truck transportation companies lost 77,900 production employees, including truck drivers and dockers, between February and April. By September, trucking companies had added 45,900 production workers, but were still 71,000 employees short of year-ago payrolls.



The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has estimated the total number of commercial drivers at 3.6 million. BLS data put the number of long-distance truckload production workers, almost all of which are drivers, at 442,400 in September, down 24,900 since February.



Said JB Hunt Transport vice president Shelley Simpson: 'The driver shortage is as real as it was in 2017. Pay can fix the problem in the short-term, but long-term we need to change the job.



'We don't think there's necessarily a driver shortage long term, but we think there is a shortage of information and connectivity that would create a more efficient network,' Ms Simpson said.


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