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Trucking industry to take steps to respond to truck driver shortage in 2015

Nearly everything that San Diego area residents purchase was transported via commercial truck. From the groceries we buy at the store to the gas we use to fuel our vehicles, the vast majority of U.S. goods are transported throughout the country aboard commercial trucks, the number of which the Transportation Security Administration estimates to be around nine million.

With no plans to rebuild the railroads, it's almost guaranteed that the U.S. economy will remain largely dependent upon commercial trucks for the transport and delivery of goods and products. While demand for work and jobs certainly isn't an issue for the commercial trucking industry, carriers are challenged to find a supply of qualified and experienced truck drivers to fulfill work demand.

According to 2013 statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for a commercial truck driver is $38,700. Low wages aren't the only drawback of a profession which often requires drivers to spend long weeks away from home and to operate a large commercial truck under stressful conditions. Additionally, increased scrutiny and oversight by federal regulators has taken away many of the freedoms truck drivers previously enjoyed with regard to scheduling and routes.

As a result, the industry is facing a major shortage of experienced truck drivers and trucking employers must find a way to attract individuals to the profession. This classic economic principle of high demand and low supply will likely benefit current truck drivers as, in response, a recent survey of trucking carriers revealed that 90 percent are planning to increase driver wages.

Additionally, 64 percent of trucking carriers expressed interest in "hiring less experienced drivers," as a means to fill open truck driver positions. Currently, federal regulations only allow individuals age 21 and older to apply for a commercial driver’s license. However, if efforts to attract more experienced drivers prove unsuccessful, trucking carriers may push for a change to lower the age requirement.

To safely operate a large commercial truck, a driver must possess the necessary driving skills and experience. Therefore a push towards hiring younger and inexperienced drivers could end up having a serious and adverse impact on public safety.

Source: Fleet Owner, "The hunt for drivers will intensify in 2015," Sean Kilcarr, Jan. 7, 2015

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