The U.S. has muddled through a truck driver shortage for decades that will now result in logjams at container ports and back-ordered goods and materials.
With a trucker shortage of more than 60,000 and that number expected to top 100,000 in the coming years, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Former President Donald Trump may have brought the issue to the forefront of media coverage and discussion when he revitalized the economy with his America First policies.
As business investment increased and unemployment waned to 50-year lows, the demand for goods and materials surged. When supply chains appeared sluggish, the Republican strongman identified a growing workforce shortfall as an illness that required a cure. The Trump Administration worked to loosen hours-of-service restrictions on drivers and implement pilot programs to attract younger truckers. Those policies helped increase new hires to an industry rife with stagnation and Baby Boomers retiring. It almost goes without saying that members of the fake news media tried to undermine the former president’s solution by creating a false narrative that no driver shortage exists.
Forbes magazine pushed the phony narrative in 2019 under the headline “The Truck Driver Shortage Is Fake News.” Liberal extremists at NPR went all-in with the anti-Trump piece, “Is There Really A Truck Driver Shortage?” Notoriously biased NPR went as far as to provide anecdotal evidence that has come back to bite them.
“The lobbying organization for the nation’s big trucking employers, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), has been making this argument since the 1980s, yet store shelves somehow remained stocked,” NPR reportedly states. “In a capitalist system, where you can pay people to do basically anything, how is it even possible to have a worker shortage for multiple decades?”
And the go-to resource for fake news “journalists” was reportedly the president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Todd Spencer, who was widely quoted after the Trump Administration implemented changes to solve the workforce shortage.
“There is no shortage. It’s just simple math,” Spencer reportedly said. “If every year there are an excess of over 400,000 brand-new drivers created, how could there possibly be a shortage?”
Truth be told, there is no year-over-year surplus of drivers to keep pace with growing consumer needs. Truck driver employment increases at 2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. That figure positions truckers below the national average for occupational employment growth. The old school math indicates that demand for qualified CDL-holders exceeds new hires, which doesn’t factor in those who leave the job or get sidelined due to stringent regulations. It’s also important to understand that wide-reaching industries require CDLs to operate heavy-duty vehicles. The shortage primarily involves long-haul truckers who pick up goods and materials at container ports and transport than across the country.
Everyday people may have noticed that retail outlets are routinely under-stocked and commercial materials remain expensive and scarce. A recent Wall Street Journal report indicates that imports are on pace to set a new record 25.9 million containers by year’s end. That comes on the heels of a 2020 record of 22 million containers arriving at U.S. ports. The increase in long-haul truckers does not measure up to record-setting increases.
“I don’t see substantial mitigation with regard to the congestion that the major container ports are experiencing,” Port of Long Beach executive director Mario Cordero reportedly said. “Many people believe it’s going to continue through the summer of 2022.”
One of the centerpieces of Mr. Trump’s solutions is currently embedded in the infrastructure package moving through Washington, D.C. Although Democrats have targeted a measure to allow qualified 18- to 21-year-olds to haul freight, it appears on track to become law. The truck driver shortage will only be getting worse and consumers should expect inconsistent inventories.