One of the biggest misconceptions of the driver shortage is that it refers to all truck drivers in general. While there is a continued need to fill driver positions of all types, it is the over-the-road positions that are the hardest to fill.

It is a difficult job that involves being out on the road for days at a time away from home. The nature of the job can be very isolating, as there are not as many of the driver and customer interactions that tend to occur with local drivers who have a set route with familiar faces and names. The pandemic has created even further isolation for these drivers.

The driver shortage reached an all-time high of 80,000 in October 2021, according to the American Trucking Associations’ chief economist, Bob Costello. Costello believes that number could surpass 160,000 in 2030.

With dueling headwinds of historic consumer demand and a significant labor shortage, it’s no surprise that 57% of respondents in the 7th annual State of the North American Supply Chain Survey said they faced delays when it came specifically to their truckload service needs. That marked a 15 percentage point increase from the previous year’s survey.

Only 28% of our respondents said they did not experience on-time service challenges with their truckload needs last year. That marked a significant decline from a high of 51% surveyed just two years prior. At the same time, 59% of the survey’s respondents expect truckload rates to increase this year.

OTR drivers around the nation saw pay increases throughout 2021. Even so, the challenges to recruit and retain good drivers continued to create on-time service issues and capacity constraints for many shippers. On top of the labor challenges, equipment shortages are also hampering efforts by the industry to increase capacity.

Shipping In Volume This Year

As consumer demand looks to remain steady and potentially stronger throughout the year, shippers may continue to experience truckload service issues in the months to come. Nonetheless, there are steps that shippers can take to mitigate the impact of the hurdles ahead.

For one, build strong partnerships with your preferred carriers of choice. Intentionally aiming for the lowest-priced carriers can easily lead to the lowest overall experience. That can mean increased damages and losses.

Secondly, be sure to treat your drivers with respect and compassion. It’s a tough job that’s been compounded by the pandemic. Be accommodating by allowing them to use your restrooms, offering snacks or water, and thanking them for the work they do. We all rely on the men and women behind the wheel to keep our country moving forward.

Lastly, explore different options with your service providers. In some instances, it may make sense to take advantage of intermodal options between different markets. In the same breath, using different strategies, including pool distribution, may benefit your operations.

The challenges with truckload services will hopefully plateau as we progress through the year. However, it’s key to remain flexible and communicative with your transportation partners.

Watch the video below to learn how Averitt Truckload can keep your full volume needs moving!


This article is part of a series taken from our Annual Shipper Survey Results Issue of Point to Point. You can click here to down the issue in its entirety for free!