Trucking Posing an Additional Snarl in the Supply Chain

New York, NY, November 4, 2021-A critical, often-overlooked link in the supply chain is emerging as a stubborn choke point in the freight-backlog mess: trucking, reports the Wall Street Journal.

“Trucks haul more than 70% of domestic cargo shipments. Yet many fleets say they can’t hire enough drivers to meet booming consumer demand as the U.S. economy emerges from the pandemic.

“The freight backup has intensified longstanding strains in the industry over hours, pay, working conditions and retention.

“The surge of goods has created logjams at loading docks and port terminals, gobbling up scarce trucking capacity and making drivers’ jobs even harder. Factories and warehouses are also short of staff to load and receive goods. Meanwhile, the broader labor shortage has left openings for other blue-collar jobs that compete with trucking, including in local delivery operations, construction and manufacturing.

“The shortfalls are pushing up transportation costs and delaying deliveries for retailers and manufacturers already coping with disruptions ahead of the holiday peak.

“The American Trucking Associations, one of the largest trade bodies, estimates the industry is some 80,000 drivers short of the workers needed to keep goods moving freely this year-up from an estimated shortage of 61,500 drivers before the pandemic. New trucks, trailers and other equipment are in short supply, further limiting the movement of cargo.

“Trucking payrolls have rebounded from early pandemic lows when efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19 shut down much of the economy. The sector added 74,500 jobs between April 2020 and September 2021, according to seasonally-adjusted Labor Department data, though overall employment in trucking remained 1.3% lower than pre-pandemic levels in September 2019.

“To help draw more drivers, fleets of all sizes are raising wages and dangling bonuses. The American Trucking Associations is backing proposed legislation to test letting people as young as 18 drive big rigs interstate, a job now limited to drivers 21 and older. Close to a third of drivers now on the road are over age 55, and women make up only 7% of all truckers, the group said. Median annual pay for heavy-truck and tractor-trailer drivers last year was $47,130, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and has increased by about 3% to 4% annually since 2016.”