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Biden Cites Progress In Creating More Trucking Jobs To Help Strengthen U.S. Supply Chains
From:
Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert
Washington, DC
Monday, April 11, 2022


The cover of Edward Segal's book on crisis management
 

Commentary From Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Bestselling Author of the Award- Winning Book "Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies " (Nicholas Brealey)

Flanked by two truck cabins, President Joe Biden spoke last Monday on the south lawn of the White House about his administration's efforts to strengthen U.S. supply chains by creating more jobs in the trucking industry.

Biden said that "… since I took office, we've begun to turn things around. In fact—2021 was the best year for trucking employment since 1994.  There are now 35,000 more trucking jobs than there were before the pandemic.''

Driver Shortage Contributes To Supply Chain Challenges

Food Logistics pointed out "The trucking industry's driver shortage has been top of mind for fleets for years. It's a situation that contributed to supply chain challenges during the pandemic, with the American Trucking Association (ATA) estimating 2021's driver shortage topped 80,000 drivers.

"Experts worry that if the current trend continues, the trucking industry could need more than 160,000 drivers by 2030."

New Federal Apprenticeship Program

Ron Greene is vice president of business development at the Overhaul Group, a supply chain risk management company. He said that a new driver apprenticeship pilot program that allows drivers from ages 18-21 to be licensed to cross state lines "will likely provide some relief to the driver shortage problem by giving young adults the opportunity to earn a middle-class living in an entry-level position.

"Also, trucking companies are starting to get better at attracting younger drivers through incentives and programs tailored to the younger generations. For example, there are companies helping drivers edit TikTok videos to make them better and more professional," Greene noted.

Improving The Appeal Of Truck Driving

To help make truck driving more appealing, there have been proposals and recommendations to help improve working conditions, offer better benefits and increased use of technology.

Pierre-Antoine Tricen is the North America director of Nomadia, a scheduling and route mapping software company. He said that "Making truck driving more appealing is a nice short-term goal, but it does not solve the main problem. The ongoing supply chain issues are not just rooted in the ports and trucks.

"The exponential increase in demand for everyday supplies (appliances, hardware and building materials specifically) is what continues to drive demand and price spikes. The utter collapse of the service industry has been one, if not the reason for that particular shift in spending. Lean inventory philosophies did the rest," Tricen observed.

"I think the administration should heavily focus on subsidizing automated solutions—including robotics, self-driving trucks, communication and AI. While these are not short-term solutions, they will set the precedent for a better infrastructure in the future—which is what the U.S. and the inherent supply chain industry desperately need," he said.

Adapting To The Driver Shortage

Jorge Lopera is vice president and head of global strategy at logistics company FarEye. He recalled, "Over the last few years, the resiliency of our supply chains [has] been rigorously tested due in no small part to the driver shortage. That said, companies have not remained stagnant and simply hoping to fill the jobs. They've flocked to technological solutions that allow them to do more with less, and that's certainly what we'll continue to see even as more driver positions are filled.

"It's important to know that the road to supply chain recovery is not solely dependent on bringing driver levels back to pre-pandemic numbers. While certainly helpful, new delivery mechanisms (drone, cargo, and parcel, as examples) are being given more attention and their adoption is being accelerated against prior forecasts.

"These investments can't and won't go to waste as businesses work [to] continue to adapt to the driver shortage," Lopera concluded.

Trucking Industry Insights

The fact sheet from the White House touched on the following issues that contribute to the truck driver shortage crisis.

Impact Of Trucks

  • Trucking moves 72% of goods in America and is a lynchpin in the goods movement supply chain.

Increased Costs

  • Trucking costs grew more than 20% last year as a surge in demand for goods caused by the pandemic confronted a decline in trucking employment that preceded the pandemic.

Driver Turnover

  • The low supply of drivers is driven by high turnover and low job quality. Turnover in trucking routinely averages 90% for some carriers and drivers spend about 40% of their workday waiting to load and unload goods—hours that are typically unpaid.
  • Many truckers are not directly employed and operate as independent small businesses, bearing the burden of leasing, gas, insurance and maintenance costs themselves. These financial burdens cause many to leave the profession.

Demographics

  • Trucking draws on an older, heavily male workforce—the median age is four years higher than the overall workforce and almost 90% of the industry is men—which adds to its recruiting challenges.                                                                                 ###

Edward Segal is a crisis management expert, consultant and the bestselling author of the award-winning Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey). Order the book at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0827JK83Q/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Segal is a Leadership Strategy Senior Contributor for Forbes.com where he covers crisis-related news, topics and issues. Read his recent articles at https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsegal/?sh=3c1da3e568c5.

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