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The United States is in the midst of a growing shortage of truck drivers that seem to be getting worse. With the average age of long-haul truck drivers being 46, 160,000 positions will remain unfilled over the next decade. This shortage is especially felt in drayage, where containers need to be transported from ports to railroads warehouses, or their final destinations. Despite these concerning shortages, there are still ways to keep freight moving.

The Shortage of Drayage Drivers

The shortage of drayage drivers largely stems from an aging truck driver population and a lack of fresh and enthusiastic recruits into the profession. Long hours, weeks on the road, and moderate pay and benefits are not drawing younger people into the field.

Younger recruits are also hampered by regulations that don’t allow them to pursue their CDL license until they are at least 21 years of age. For young men and women who have not chosen to pursue post-secondary degrees, they are already well established in their trades at this point or driving CDL vehicles for construction, rather than for a trucking company.

In drayage specifically, traffic is especially congested in port and metropolitan areas. Many drayage drivers spend the majority of their day in long wait times either in traffic or in line at the port. In these cases, many drayage drivers are opting for long-haul driving instead of the shorter-haul drayage driving.

4 Ways to Move Drayage Freight Despite the Driver Shortage

Despite the shortage of drayage drivers, there are still four key ways you can keep your freight moving and your customers happy. These include:

1. Use a company with employees on their payroll instead of contractors

In the Los Angeles/Long Beach port, SB 1402 regulations require the blacklisting of drayage companies that have labor malpractice judgments against them. Shippers who work with these companies on this blacklist are 50% liable for the legal findings for drivers and workers who win the judgments against these companies.

2. Rate hikes happen because companies need drivers

In order to attract new drivers, carriers are hiring drivers at higher pay rates, which is then passed on to the shipping customer.
3. Establish long-term relationships with drayage providers

This is a simple solution that guarantees the drayage provider will dedicate their resources to getting your freight where it needs to go. Set a specific number of containers in your contract, and commit to working with the drayage service long-term.

4. Make sure your drayage carrier has their own equipment

To save time, simplify your shipping supply chain, and ensure there are plenty of drivers, work with a company that has all these aspects ready to roll.

Finding Container Drayage Companies with Reliable Capacity

There are a few steps you can take to find container drayage companies with enough capacity for your shipped goods. Select a company that makes you a priority, and consolidates as much of their equipment and employees as possible. These companies should:

  • Offer warehouse and drayage services
  • Own their chassis
  • Do business in the same area where your goods are located
  • Employ their own drivers

How to Attract and Retain Drivers in the Face of Driver Shortage

Attracting new truck drivers is important, but retaining them is also an important cost-effective measure for many trucking companies. Trucking companies should take the following steps to get new drivers in the door and keep them on their team:

  • Advertise using language and information specific to the company to attract the right candidates for the company’s culture
  • Offer benefits and competitive salaries
  • Outline expectations clearly
  • Promote health initiatives to keep drivers who are largely sedentary healthy
  • Treat drivers well and listen to their concerns

What’s Behind the Driver Shortage?

Long hours, moderate pay, aging drivers, and extensive training all play a role in the driver shortage in the trucking industry. Additionally, with increased shipping demands across the United States, there just isn’t a large enough supply of truck drivers to meet the demands of consumer goods transportation.

Truck Driver Shortage: What Should Shippers Do?

Shippers can take some important steps in adapting to the driver shortage. Using metrics wisely to determine which carriers are getting your goods to their destination safely and efficiently. If you can choose a regional carrier, you may be able to snag better drivers who are hesitant for national long-haul posts.

Shippers should also ensure congestion at their port is at a minimum if possible, and communicate any delays to drivers so they can plan accordingly. This helps build relationships with carriers that can help you tackle challenges as a team in the future.
Combining freight with other shippers can help get goods to their destination even faster. Monopolizing a half-empty truck doesn’t save on costs and increases congestion.

Finally, shippers should have logistics and purchasing involved in creating pricing for your freight. Bids should be made to move freight, not to hold it up by carriers in favor of more expensive and profitable goods.

Current Factors Making the Truck Driver Shortage Worse

In addition to an aging truck driver population, other factors that are making the driver shortage worse include high turnover rates, poorly-qualified candidates, stricter regulations, and the availability of more job markets and alternatives to truck driving.

Driver Problems Top Latest List of Trucking Woes

Drivers have issues on top of the shortage, which makes it difficult to attract new drayage drivers. Among their top complaints are compensation, retention, construction, inflexible regulation hours, and the trade war with China.

Driver Shortage Still the Top Issue for Truckload Carriers

To save on costs, many carriers are doing business regionally, which cuts down on the amount of miles truck drivers spend in their cabs. While their pay has increased, they are still not taking home as much as they would have in longer-distance jobs in the early 2000s. With more drivers, more carriers could resume national shipping routes.

A Shortage of Trucks Is Forcing Companies to Cut Shipments or Pay Up

In addition to the driver shortage, there is also a significant dip in the availability of trucks to haul their freight to the next destination. This forces many carriers to either delay shipments that are not as profitable, or pay out-of-pocket to rent trucks. These costs and effects are also being passed on to shippers.

Solving the Trucking Labor Shortage

The American Trucking Association has put forth a few ideas for solving the trucking labor shortage in the next decade. These include lowering the age for a CDL license to 18, and increasing training and oversight for three years so younger drivers can enter the truck driving fleet sooner. This would promote trucking as a key industry for younger people to choose, instead of following other trades such as construction.

The ATA also recommends recruiting more women into trucking, as they currently only make up 7% of truck drivers across the entire industry. They also suggest recruiting retired military veterans, especially those with previous truck driving experience. Of course, trucking companies need to be prepared to offer better pay and benefits to attract new recruits, especially since they will be on the road for weeks at a time.

Intermodal Drayage & Transportation Services in North America

Intermodal drayage uses more than just one form of transportation to get freight from their starting point to their final destination. In North America, this may mean a combination of air, rail, truck, and ocean carriers, along with drayage services. Containers stay closed during transit, so freight remains safe even through transport changes.

Final Thoughts

At AsianaUSA, we have developed close relationships with intermodal carriers to ensure your freight arrives at its destination on-time safely despite driver shortages. Call us today at 855-500-1808 to learn more about how our 3PL services can help your shipments.

Tristan is a professional writer having had careers as a teacher of English, school administrator, and as a broker in real estate sales. He has gained a great deal of legal experience through his service as the president of a teacher’s union, a member of the board for a real estate association, and as the chairman of the Government Affairs Committee for the real estate board of directors. Before beginning a full-time job as a freelance writer, he was the Executive Director of the Global Business Alliance for a local Chamber of Commerce and sat on the Government Affairs Committee for the Chamber.
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