Local News

Shortage of big rig truck drivers may impact consumer costs

Posted June 7, 2018 6:49 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:14 a.m. EDT

— Experts are predicting that a massive shortage of drivers for big rigs may soon start to impact the wallets of American consumers.

That's because retailers are facing a shipping squeeze, and the trucking industry is unable to meet the demand.

According to the American Trucking Association, there is a need for more than 56,000 drivers in the U.S. to keep pace with surging demands. In North Carolina, the state is in need of about 12,000 drivers.

"We're spending more attracting and recruiting those drivers," said Marian Brewer, a vice president with Longistics, a Raleigh-based truck company. "If you do not have a driver to transport the goods, then those companies are also paying more for the shipping costs. Ultimately, that goes right to the consumer."

Experts say the shortage is being driven by retirements of baby boomers and the industry has had a hard time getting younger people to replace them.

Truck drivers can make up to $80,000 annually, and a college degree is not needed. However, drivers must have a commercial driver's license.

The North Carolina Trucking Association has been pushing Congress to lessen restrictions to make it easier for certain people to become truck drivers. One such bill would allow 18- to 20-year-old drivers who are already truck drivers within the state would be permitted to drive across state lines.

Another measure would help get more military veterans behind the wheel.

"Especially with military (members) that currently are driving large trucks overseas," said Crystal Collins, president of the North Carolina Trucking Association. "They have that experience and we can transition that into our industry very easily and seamlessly."

The need right now is mainly for drivers who can operate trucks for days or weeks at a time and are known in the business as "over the road" drivers. Those drivers are required to put in very long hours, which in many instances requires them to sleep in the bed inside their truck.

The industry is also trying to recruit more women.