HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The pandemic has created all sorts of contradictions; Lots of people are out of work, and yet some industries are busier than ever. Trucking is on that list. We’re buying more stuff online than ever and there aren’t enough drivers to deliver it.
The truck driver shortage isn’t new. It’s been going for at least four years. But the pandemic made it much worse.
“The year 2020 really sort of tipped the balance and now we’re looking at a bigger crisis than we had in the past,” said Rebecca Oyler, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association.
Oyler said the number of truck drivers dropped year over year in 2020 for the first time since the 2008 recession.
The good news for the industry is the pandemic did make everyone realize the value of truck drivers.
“Drivers stepped up and kept our economy running every day last year and I know a lot of people were really grateful. They got a lot of recognition for that,” Oyler said.
But many companies are hard-pressed to find qualified drivers, including S&H Express out of York.
“Thankfully for us, we have a truck driving school in our Shelly Truck Driving School, that hires and recruits a lot of truck drivers for us to bring them into a trainee program. But as far as experienced drivers go, it’s been a challenge,” said Jordan Kolb, executive vice president of S&H Express.
One short term solution is better pay. S&H has raised its wages the past four years.
“It’s a normal review for us to see our current driver pay package and increase it and improve it for drivers each year,” Kolb said. “So this year we increased both our hourly driver pay numbers as well as our mileage drivers.”
Another solution is better educating high schoolers on possible career paths. And on top of finding drivers, many companies are looking at ways to keep them over the long term.
“Many companies are talking about how to improve the driver experience, so by using technology in ways that improve life for a driver out on the road,” Oyler said.
Even if you’re not a driver, this matters to you because the longer this shortage lasts the more you could be paying for your stuff.
“We’ve seen freight rates, transportation rates rise significantly since the pandemic and if they’re going to remain high, customers costs are higher and eventually that’s going to come down to the consumer as well,” Kolb said.
Experts say they expect the shortage to stick around for quite a while, but for job seekers positions are open just about everywhere you look.