The United States is suffering from a truck driver shortage and it is costing consumers, according to the American Trucking Associations. “Pretty much if you’ve got it, a truck’s brought it. When people are buying more things, buying new houses, filling new houses with furniture, building new houses — all of that is generating freight that needs to be moved,” said Sean McNally with the American Trucking Associations. McNally said trucks move 70 percent of all freight in the United States and, without drivers to move that freight, prices and wait times are increasing for consumers. “Freight rates are going up because companies are having difficulties finding trucking companies to move their goods, because trucking companies are having difficulties finding drivers,” McNally said.
Companies are trying to recruit drivers by offering incentives like higher pay and bonuses. “Whenever you’re paying drivers more, it adds to the cost of freight. That cost ultimately gets passed on to you the consumer,” McNally said.
According to the ATA, 51,000 trucking jobs are available. McNally said it can be difficult to find drivers who have the necessary skills and safety record. “If we’re being honest, it’s a job that isn’t for everybody. You can be by yourself for a long period of time. There are some challenges in the lifestyle. It takes a certain type of individual who wants to do this,” McNally said.
McNally also said drivers must be 21 years old to drive across state lines. “Most individuals graduate high school at 18. We’re losing them to other careers: construction, retail, the military … other avenues that are open to people at the age of 18.” That’s why U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth of Indiana has introduced a bill to allow 18 to 20-year-olds to drive across state lines. “We can allow a 19-year-old to drive nine hours up to Gary, Indiana, and back to Jeffersonville … but they can’t drive the 10 minutes to Louisville,” Hollingsworth said. Hollingsworth’s bill, the DRIVE-Safe Act, would allow drivers younger than 21 to cross state lines after completing an apprenticeship program. “This really enables trucking companies across the district, state and country to get back to delivering their products in a timely manner with the workforce that they need,” Hollingsworth said. McNally said the industry needs more young drivers. “The average truck driver is 49. It’s important for us to have young people that can replace a population that’s going to be retiring soon,” McNally said. 24-Hour News 8 asked Hollingsworth if allowing young drivers to drive across the country raises any safety concerns. “It doesn’t do anything to reduce the safety requirements,” Hollingsworth said. “I’m just saying let’s afford them [drivers younger than 21] the ability to cross state lines … after they go through a rigorous safety program.” The ATA said the industry needs to add 90,000 drivers every year for the next decade to keep up with demand. 24-Hour News 8 reached out to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but a spokesperson referred us to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA did not respond to our requests for comment.