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Rail News: Intermodal

Good news for railroads: Driver shortage appears to be a long-term trucking issue, ATA says

A truck driver shortage that’s helped U.S. railroads grab a larger slice of the intermodal pie the past few years isn’t going away any time soon. A current shortage of 20,000 long-haul truck drivers will grow to 111,000 by 2014 if demographic trends hold true, according to an American Trucking Associations (ATA) report.

Entitled “U.S. Truck Driver Shortage: Analysis and Forecasts,” the report estimates the supply of new long-haul truck drivers will grow at an annual rate of 1.6 percent during the next decade, but the trucking industry will need a 2.2 percent annual increase — or 320,000 drivers — to meet demand. The industry also will need another 219,000 drivers to replace retiring truckers, increasing 10-year hiring needs to 539,000 drivers or an annual average of 54,000.

“The driver market is the tightest it has been in 20 years,” said ATA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Graves in a prepared statement. “It's a major limitation to the amount of freight that motor carriers can haul. It's critical that we find ways to tap a new labor pool, increase wages and recruit new people into the industry.”

In 2000, thousands of drivers exited the trucking industry after average weekly earnings fell 9 percent below average construction earnings, the report states. Driver wages haven’t returned to pre-2000 levels. In addition, drivers are quitting or difficult to recruit because of unpredictable schedules and the amount of time spent away from home, the report says.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/27/2005