Fleet Management

Driver Shortage Hits Highest Recorded Level in 2015

October 06, 2015

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Photo: Pride Transport
Photo: Pride Transport

The driver shortage has left the trucking industry nearly 48,000 qualified drivers short and is on pace to expand by a significant margin, according to a new report issued by the American Trucking Associations.

Last year, the industry was short 38,000 drivers meaning that in just one year, the number is projected to increase by nearly 10,000 drivers, according to ATA.

Industry growth and a retiring workforce threaten to increase the driver shortage to as high as 175,000 by 2024 if the current trend holds.

While ATA is not saying that the shortage will certainly reach that number, the report uses it to illustrate what could happen to the industry if it continues on the current course. ATA projects that over the next decade, the trucking industry will need to hire 890,000 new drivers or 89,000 drivers per year to meet demand.

The average age of an over-the-road driver is currently 49 years old and, as a result, 45% of the hiring requirement will be to replace retiring drivers. By contrast, increasing demand makes up only 33% of the need for drivers.

Another contributing factor in the shortage is that while trucking companies receive applications, as high as 88% of carriers reported that most applicants were not qualified.

The report was ATA’s fourth major analysis of the issue since 2005.

“An important thing we learned in this analysis is that this isn’t strictly a numbers problem, it is a quality problem too,” said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. “Fleets consistently report receiving applications for open positions, but that many of those candidates do not meet the criteria to be hired. “

Apart from age other significant factors contributing to the driver shortage include a less diverse driver pool, the difficult lifestyle, and competing jobs. For instance, according to the ATA report, women make up 47% of all U.S. workers while they have comprised between 4.5% and 6% of the truck driving workforce since 2000.

A few years ago, trucking was one of the few industries hiring, but today a better economy has led to more direct alternatives for current or would-be drivers. One competitor for workers, the construction industry, has grown by 113,000 employees so far in 2015.

One of the largest unforeseen factors are the effects of regulations, such as the truck driver hours-of-service issue which may worsen the driver shortage by requiring more trucks and drivers to handle the same workload.

“Our work shows the great and growing need for drivers but we also highlight several solutions,” said Costello. “Make no mistake, the driver shortage is a challenge, but it is not an insurmountable one.”

To access the full ATA report, click here.

Check out HDT's Ongoing Driver Shortage Coverage

HDT's Driver Shortage page includes up-to-date, in-depth articles, analysis and news about how the trucking industry is handling this difficult crisis. 


  1. 1. Don Norris [ October 06, 2015 @ 11:55AM ]

    First of all build larger rest areas and safe havens for trucks to park on weekdays after 8:00 pm most truck stops and rest areas are packed full. As of October 2015 freight shipment's have slowed down a bit. The driver shortage based on large carriers with trucks sitting idle without drivers?

  2. 2. John Esposito [ October 07, 2015 @ 05:04AM ]

    Poor pay for the hours worked, ridiculous regulations, slow trucks, DOT constantly badgering for small petty items, CSA which is nothing more than a witch hunt. Companies that could care less about drivers and home time, no benefits this can go on and on, the industry in two words. it sucks !! I started in 1970's and seen this industry self destruct

  3. 3. Vlademir De Santi [ October 07, 2015 @ 05:40AM ]

    Industry is in a self destruct mode, with all the regulations from people sitting behind desk's that don't know what it is like to be behind of a wheel, all the look is at is DATA collected from a few trucks, and thinks everyone is made alike! The problem is the corporate world trying to profit more and more, and care less and less about drivers! Owner Operators are the back bone of this country, and that is soon to be gone, specially if Electronic logs kick in!

  4. 4. Richard Gaskill [ October 07, 2015 @ 05:58AM ]

    "Another contributing factor in the shortage is that while trucking companies receive applications, as high as 88% of carriers reported that most applicants were not qualified." And most of those were conned by CDL mills that will accept anyone with the money regardless of poor driving records, felony convictions, etc..
    Internet forums tell the truth about deceptive recruiters, high driver turnover, and micromanagement and loss of freedom to EOBR's.
    Potential drivers are learning there are far better career choices.

  5. 5. JE Taratuta [ October 07, 2015 @ 06:11AM ]

    Funny thing is, a person with no experience can make over $20/hr running flowers in a small box truck during peak demand, but "training wages" for a tractor-trailer driver are usually less than half that, or even a third.

    Quality pay will attract quality help. It always does. Problem solved.

  6. 6. LandonEA [ October 07, 2015 @ 08:47AM ]

    There is no driver shortage. If there was, brokers would not be offering loads for $1 per mile. There may be a lot of trucks out there with no one in the seat, but if there was a shortage of drivers the rates would go up and there would be more drivers.

  7. 7. 4b [ October 07, 2015 @ 09:08AM ]

    Same old song and dance from the ATA.. I'm Sick of hearing this crap.. 1.40 a mile freight.. Non English speaking drivers... Rookies killing people everyday.. Overregulation.. What there is a shortage of is sheeple that will work for peanuts and think driving a 62 mph truck with a camera in your face while being treated like dog s*** is a good deal.. The industry is nose diving and a CAN'T wait for it to fold under.. I have other skills to offer society.. So I could care less if it ended tomorrow....be careful what you wish for ATA.....

  8. 8. Adi [ October 07, 2015 @ 09:26AM ]

    Who writes this? Planty of drivers available, but pay is not good.
    Second; where are the loads? I got five guys sitting here in Saint Louis a(owners operators) and I am looking at the load boards- loads count is down 90% and you see someone writes about driver shortage not load shortage.

  9. 9. Tom [ October 07, 2015 @ 10:02AM ]

    For years the shippers have been in control. Some of the rating structure we use are the same as those used in the 1980’s when fuel was $.80/gallon. Ryder is one of the few Companies that has a fair FSC. It appears the remainder use a table that doesn’t begin to cover the additional cost of fuel. If that isn’t bad enough, shippers use the “national” average instead of California’s – to figure the FSC.

    A great number of shippers use brokers to move their freight. The brokers take advantage of the truckers moving the freight by using rates so low that there isn’t any profit available for these truckers to purchase newer equipment or in California, to comply with the exorbitant costs of complying with CARB.

    Over the years the cost of everything has risen while the rates haven’t kept pace. Although this is an obvious contributor to the annual dwindling of capacity, CARB mandates have most definitely accelerated the exodus from the industry.

    The number of trucks based in California is down 40% from just three years ago due to CARB mandates. In anticipation of CARB - emissions regulations, many truck owners got out early. With little or no profits and the cost of CARB mandates – it was just not cost effective to stay in business thus reducing capacity. The reason capacity wasn’t an issue earlier is that CARB delayed full implementation three or four times, and just recently (April 25th) delayed it for a select group another 6 months, possibly a year, they haven’t ruled yet, just know that they voted 10-1 to delay.

    CARB has also discouraged many out of state trucks from coming into California. Refusing or not being able to comply with the mandates, these truckers have found other freight to keep them busy and out of CA.

  10. 10. Jeff [ October 07, 2015 @ 10:23AM ]

    You first have to ask the question, what is in this industry that will want people to come work? Not much when you look at it, not like the old days you can sell this industry on being your own boss and see the country. Of course too this is a numbers thing as well, if some of the big companies just cut back on units they are not filling and probably won't then the need will not look as bad. I know the situation is not as bad as everyone is saying because I talk to drivers that are coming to me to be hired because they are getting no miles. Throw out the lease purchase program, big scam. Yes I am sure some have had a success under it, but for most do not.
    So what is it going to take to fix the problem if in fact there is one. First change the schools, must do better on screening applicants, not everyone if cut out for truck driving, they need to weed those out. Schools need to also clue drivers in not only how to drive truck, but prepare the applicant about what the truck world is like, many leave this industry within 6 months because they were not ready for all of this.
    Company trainers need to be better, help instruct and inspire, also would help if you paid the trainer accordingly, and not have a driver with only 6 months under his belt and make him a trainer. Not everyone can or should train others, you have to pick them out, discuss and PAY them for training. Make sure drivers are getting paid what they are suppose to be getting paid. Fire all the recruiters and hire new ones that actually care and not lie to people.
    You change just a couple of these and tweak a bit, your retention will go up and turnover down.
    I do not hire any driver till he/she knows exactly what they are getting into, what they will get paid and the fact that it happens. Full understanding of what is expected of them. When that all is understood then I schedule the driver for orientation and we go over it again.

  11. 11. Trish [ October 07, 2015 @ 07:49PM ]

    Poor pay is first and foremost! Like the majority of U.S. Corporations, big companies spend big bucks to find drivers. Their CEO's and other corporate officers are cushioning their pockets more and more each year. When you refuse to pay for quality don't expect quality. If you are making millions per year to run a company, I'm not say that many corporate officers didn't earn their way to large paychecks, but what I am saying is "how much do you as an individual need to play hard"? These guys make pennies per mile and you want to push them each day to make you more money with little or no incentive to WANT to work for you with paychecks $200 - $800 / wk. BEFORE taxes and medical benefits are taken out! Happy employees are productive employees. The better you take care of them, they will take care of you! Why is it so hard to look at the big picture? Why so narrow minded and greedy? The OTR guys seldom see home with NO incentive to work for you other than to get by. Their personal lives suffer but you want to push them constantly! Why is it so hard to acknowledge driver burnout? Build in more time off for these guys? Give them a week every so often just to acknowledge they are people too? Yes! Schools want to just make money than be realistic with students. They make them think they can walk into a local job right out of school, make great money and still have a life. WRONG! You are going to have to work REAL HARD! That's a fact. I am a recruiter. I DON'T lie to my applicants. I tell you the good, the bad and the UGLY! You have the right to know what it is you are up against and what benefits you will and won't have from a given position. I do my best to tell what I have to offer you from various vacancies and based upon their credentials and the companies hiring criteria. I've been in the business almost 20 yrs and not limited to recruiting. Recruiting is my newest venture. I've done it all! I refuse to lie to anyone.

  12. 12. Panda [ October 08, 2015 @ 01:40AM ]

    I love it when the commenters set the record straight. These pieces refuse to say what's practically bathroom knowledge, that this industry chews up ppl and spits em out, and not always the drivers. The public pays, too, when clueless newbies crash the trucks. There's a reason they have to hire clueless newbies, cuz everyone else knows the truth.

    Start sharing the wealth and see what happens, or they need to quit bitching and lie in the bed they made. No one is buying it, really, esp those that been there......

  13. 13. Steve P [ October 10, 2015 @ 02:48PM ]

    There is no Driver Shortage,But a Truck Overage due to stupid regulations that now it requires 3 trucks to do the job Of One,Remove some of the Stupidity and the Local , State and Federal Money Grabbers and it will gt better.After 40 years the only ones to mage any Money in Trucking IS the Government. just say it is Safety Related and it is a law.

  14. 14. Steve P [ October 10, 2015 @ 02:48PM ]

    There is no Driver Shortage,But a Truck Overage due to stupid regulations that now it requires 3 trucks to do the job Of One,Remove some of the Stupidity and the Local , State and Federal Money Grabbers and it will get better.After 40 years the only ones to mage any Money in Trucking IS the Government. just say it is Safety Related and it is a law.

  15. 15. Paul Juhan [ October 11, 2015 @ 10:13AM ]

    I'm with Steve it is all a scam alie and b*******

  16. 16. stephen w [ October 15, 2015 @ 05:24PM ]

    Many truck driver have been forced out. I was hit from behind when stop far a car in a snow storm. A young new driver 21 hit me from behind at 50 mph damaging the trucks and the trailer. My employer told their insurance company I did not wish to put a claim for my injury or damage to my tractor which still sit at the repair where is was fixed in march .my employer owes me aprox .$9,000 Cd and will not pay. My back is in pain everday It cost the Ontario government almost $10,000 to keep in a homeless shelter and the region is now going after the insurance company. 5193578686. Ps a Ryder truck hit me.


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