Driver shortage could impact freight movement across US, Canada

Transportation companies across North America have witnessed an uptick in freight shipments that need to be delivered safely and on time.

To meet new demands, many private, for-hire and dedicated transportation businesses are planning to increase their workforces and better serve the needs of their clients. However, qualified drivers have proved increasingly difficult for them to find. Data indicates driver shortages may continue to plague the industry in the coming years, potentially making it more challenging for companies to meet CSA and customer delivery requirements.

Driver shortage could impact US 
A late 2012 survey from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) revealed companies may see slight hiring problems now, but the problem could grow substantially over the years. It revealed the current driver shortage is estimated to be around 20,000 to 25,000 drivers and has the potential to explode to 239,000 in the next 10 years.

"On average, trucking will need to recruit nearly 100,000 new drivers every year to keep up with demand for drivers with nearly two-thirds of the need coming from industry growth and retirements," said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist.

Canada also expected to see a shortage 
It's not just the American trucking industry that will see this struggle; driver shortages are already having an impact on the Canadian economy, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report. The data revealed driver shortages are estimated to hit 25,000 to 30,000 for-hire drivers by 2020, a staggering number considering the trucking industry is responsible for transporting 90 percent of consumer and food products within the country.

"The food we eat, the goods that we enjoy and even the homes we live in are in large part delivered by trucks," said Vijay Gill, principal research associate. "The inability to meet a huge demand for truckers could be costly for the trucking industry, consumer goods and the Canadian economy."

Working around expected shortages 
It can be challenging for transportation companies to perform when suffering from a shortage of qualified drivers. Transportation company leadership in the U.S. and Canada suggest policy changes can help ease the burden trucking firms face and make it easier to build talented workforces. However, waiting for government action isn't always an option, especially for commercial carriers and fleets struggling to keep up with demand.

Fleet managers can take action into their own hands by beginning to implement new technology that can streamline processes and ensure their operations are running efficiently. Companies with assets will continue to invest in fleet management software, to better track drivers and ensure truckers are engaging in safe, compliant practices. Businesses concerned about moving freight on time may look to routing software, which can help them not only save on fuel expenses and time, but also find the most direct route to their destination, particularly when short on drivers.