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Worsening Driver Shortage is Carriers’ Top Issue of 2021
4 mins read
For the fifth consecutive year, the driver shortage is the number one concern of motor carriers. This is according to the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) annual survey that asks motor carriers and truck drivers about the current issues they’re most concerned about.

The survey results were announced during the 2021 American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition in Nashville last month.

The ATA has been warning about a worsening driver shortage for years. In 2019, that shortage was estimated at 61,000 drivers. But since the pandemic, it has grown by 30% to a whopping 80,000 driver deficit.

Hire & Onboard Drivers

According to the ATA, if nothing is done to correct this problem, we could be looking at a 1,000,000 driver shortage within the next 10 years. Given the issues that we’re seeing at our nation’s backlogged ports already – it’s easy to see why this has become such an area of concern.

So why the shortage? Experts point to a few key reasons.


According to the ATA, the median age of over-the-road truckers is 46, while private fleet drivers average 57 years old. Many of these, expectedly, will retire in the next decade, creating even more urgency for an influx of new talent. Meanwhile, women are vastly underrepresented and recruited, accounting for just 6.6% of the workforce.

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Age Requirements

Similarly, the 21-year-old interstate driver requirement prevents the industry from recruiting drivers directly from high school. Some say this is a missed opportunity for the industry because would-be truckers could be pulled away to other careers during a critical three-year period. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is looking to fix this problem by proposing a new pilot program that would allow 18 to 20-year-old drivers to operate in interstate commerce.

New Drug & Alcohol Rules

The Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse that went into effect in January 2020 has eliminated (permanently or temporarily) over 80,000 drivers with prior drug or alcohol violations or failed drug tests prior to or during employment. While those in the industry note that it is important to keep unsafe drivers off the road, they see this as a significant, contributing factor to driver shortages.

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Other considerations:

  • Driver compensation contributing to significant turnover rates.
  • The shutdown of many driving schools during the pandemic, halting new driver training.
  • The lifestyle: Drivers themselves point to the grueling, lonely nature of long-distance driving.

Staying Competitive in a Tough Market

 As a motor carrier, especially in this difficult hiring market, it is essential that you attract (and retain) the safest, most qualified drivers.

One option to stay ahead of the competition: A robust, automated application, screening and compliance solution like the one we offer here at Foley. It begins with a mobile-friendly, easy-to-use digital application where drivers can upload their CDLs and medical certificates along with their applications directly from their devices.

Once received, you can then easily manage your applicants and their applications from your personalized dashboard.

Our system streamlines the hiring process for both you and your applicants, and helps you to ensure that you’re ready to make hiring decisions faster—and to get drivers onboarded as quickly as possible (before they get recruited by another company). In fact, we’ve found that our system increases application submissions by 33%.

In this environment, you must do all you can to boost your recruitment. Interested in learning more? Contact Foley today!

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