A dispute has broken out in the United States over the question of whether there really is a truck driver shortage.

The American Trucking Association reports that around 80,000 truck drivers were missing across the country last year.

By 2030, as many as 160,000 drivers would be under-driving, predicts Bob Costello, the organization's economist.

A million drivers would therefore have to be hired within the next ten years to fill the ranks.

Winand von Petersdorff-Campen

Economic correspondent in Washington.

  • Follow I follow

"Nonsense," counters Todd Spencer, President of the competing organization OOIDA, whose members are both drivers and owners of the trucks.

In an interview with the television channel CNBC, he referred to a well-kept secret in the industry: The fluctuation in the largest freight companies is enormous.

Some have to replace nine out of ten drivers after a year.

Average salary increased by 11 percent

There are several reasons for the large fluctuation.

Some candidates learn over time that the big cross-country trips, the long absence from family, 70-hour weeks and the unhealthy lifestyle in general are not for them - or are not sufficiently compensated.

You change the industry or the employer that pays better.

Haulage companies and large dealers are reacting to the development, which was fueled by the pandemic: wages have risen so sharply in hardly any other occupational group than among truck drivers.

The average salary climbed 11 percent last year to just under $70,000.

This was announced by the American Trucking Association.

For a survey, she interviewed hundreds of thousands of drivers from large haulage companies and large corporations with their own truck fleets such as PepsiCo or Wal-Mart.

As recently as spring, Wal-Mart made headlines by announcing it would pay first-year truck drivers $110,000, which is about twice the starting salary of a Washington DC teacher.

In the meantime, wages of up to $100,000 have become normal.

Large trucking companies such as the publicly traded company Werner, which has around 8,000 trucks, have increased their drivers' wages by 15 percent within a year, while ordinary staff only received a wage increase of 4.1 percent.

Many companies give an extra bonus of thousands of dollars to drivers who sign a contract, and offer "finder's rewards" to people who successfully place them with drivers.

Some haulage companies advertise in job advertisements that truckers are allowed to take their dogs and cats with them on their long trips.

Underutilization hurts income

However, there are doubts as to whether the material incentives are sufficient or even targeted.

MIT researcher David Correll determined how long drivers actually pursue their core business, driving.

Regulations state that drivers can spend up to 11 hours behind the wheel in any 24-hour period, but they typically only drive 6.5 hours a day.

The reason: They wait, sometimes for hours, before they are processed.

"I think America's truck drivers are chronically underemployed," Correll told a stunned Congress in a hearing.

And that although a lot of work is idle.

The logistics researcher speaks of a notorious disregard for the value of truck drivers' working time.

The underutilization is not only negative from an economic point of view, it also damages the income of the drivers.

You are usually paid based on the mile you drive.

This means that the promised six-figure income is not so certain and depends heavily on the efficiency of processing in warehouses.

Correll comes to the conclusion that more intelligent logistics programs could help: "We don't have a hardware problem, we have a software problem." According to his calculation, the alleged driver shortage would be eliminated if each individual driver lost 18 minutes less time a day in poorly managed high-bay warehouses.