Is The Truck Driver Shortage a Myth?


If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it at least a dozen times. “There are not enough truckers.” And “The trucker shortage is dire.” This comment has led to an overhaul of recruitment attempts, higher sign-on bonuses, and other noteworthy changes.

But what if there isn’t actually a trucker shortage at all? What if, hypothetically, there are more than enough people willing to become a truck driver?  What if the shortage is simply a myth?

Define the Trucker Shortage

When it comes to employment, shortage means the distinct lack of people willing to take up a position. A “shortage” does not simply mean the existing number of employees. If there is truly a shortage, it must be difficult to find and hire new workers to replace those who retire or leave the industry.

Typically, if an industry faces an ongoing shortage, they raise wages or improve working conditions to entice new people into that field.

Depending on the industry, the government will even occasionally step in. The government may increase educational opportunities to help people get hired.

Shortages rarely hurt an industry for more than five years, as we’ve ostensibly seen in trucking. When an employment shortage lasts that long, there’s a major problem not being addressed in that industry.

Does the Shortage Come Down to Payment?

More and more trucking companies are offering sign-on bonuses. Wages for truck drivers have gone up, but generally, this was done in response to the wage stagnation between 2016 and 2018.

(NOTE: This temporary wage stagnation is different than the stagnation in real wages which has been happening for 40 years to American workers.)

Some argue that these boosts in trucker pay should have been enough to solve the shortage. They argue that if there were enough people out there who knew about trucking and wanted to enter the career,then the shortage would end.

Others argue that if pay increased even more, then eventually workers would rush to the money. These people argue that the pay increases simply haven’t been enough to make a difference, and that a continuous raise in pay will eventually yield a breaking point where workers will flow into the industry.

So what do the stats say about a current lack of truckers and whether or not more truckers are needed?

Bureau of Labor Statistics

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS), the hire and leave rate is about the same in trucking as other industries. They describe the market as “tight”:

“Employment in the occupation has been resilient, and nominal annual wages have persistently exceeded those of other blue-collar jobs with similar human capital requirements.”

The BLS report says that both long-haul and short-haul numbers do not represent a current employment shortage.  But the report also admits that a more in-depth analysis may reveal a shortage.

There are currently 3 million truck drivers working in the U.S.

The BLS report also backed the theory of pay for new truckers. The report stated that if there was truly an ongoing shortage, then an increase in starting salary could be used to alleviate the situation. They argue that the trucking industry is no different from other markets in this regard.

Is There a Shortage?

According the BLS, there is no current shortage of drivers, and any difficulty hiring can be solved with wage increases, just like any other industry.

But according to many trucking companies, they see the shortage with trucks sitting idle. A lack of freight isn’t keeping those trucks in the lot. According to industry leaders, the problem is a lack of drivers.

What reality do you see in your day-to-day work as a truck driver? What would get more people involved in trucking? Let us know in our forums.