Is the Trucking “Shortage” Over? Or Is the Economy Cooling?


Photo by Dominik Lückmann on Unsplash

A truck driver doesn’t have to be working for long before they hear about the alleged “truck driver shortage.” A lot has been written about whether or not there’s an actual shortage of drivers or simply an unwillingness of existing drivers and potential qualified truckers to work for existing wages.

However you look at the so-called shortage, a new report from the Harvard Business Report shows that supply is finally meeting demand in the trucking industry. That has ramifications for truck drivers and the trucking industry, and it might be a big sign that the economy is cooling down.

What Does the Data Say?

According to the HBR article, data shows that prices to hire truck drivers for specific spot freight is lowering. Freight brokers are finding the drivers they need, signaling that a shortage of drivers is waning.

Another data point comes from our ports. A key supply chain problem in 2021 and 2022 has been the lack of truck drivers who could speedily move the freight out of the ports after it’s taken off the ships. This has caused a backlog at key ports, such as Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The time to unload port shipments has decreased, indicating that more drivers are available to haul this freight out of the ports themselves.

Why Might the “Shortage” Have Ended?

The first argument against the “shortage” has been the fact that trucking was not paying sufficient wages. In response, trucking companies have raised wages, increased benefits, and become more flexible with home time.

Some companies now offer extravagant sign-on bonuses to further entice drivers. As a result, these factors have helped more people enter or re-enter the business as truck drivers.

Many policies have also worked to expand the hiring pool of drivers. Efforts have been made to increase women truck drivers and to lower the legal age for CDL interstate driving.

Lower Demand for Drivers? That’s Not Good…

Of course, there’s another explanation to the “shortage” or the simple supply vs demand balance for truck drivers. It’s possible that supply has risen, but it’s also possible that demand has fallen.

With inflation and increased fuel costs, American consumers may simply be purchasing less. And that’s bad news for the economy.

Trucking is a sign of a healthy economy. When lots of goods are produced and people are purchasing those goods, we all need more truck drivers to ship those items. When production and buying is down, so is trucking.

Maybe efforts to expand trucking and hire more drivers have been successful. But we may also be in for a recession… and soon. If you have the chance to drive and make some money now, it’s probably a good time to take it.