With a nationwide shortage of truck drivers, delivery delays have been mounting across the country. Truckers are needed to deliver everything from Amazon packages to food items for restaurants and grocery stores. This is having an especially negative impact on those who rely on deliveries as their livelihoods due to the lack of goods in general supply chain disruption.

The “truck driver shortage 2021 usa” is a problem that has been present for a while. The shortage of truck drivers is causing delays in deliveries, which is adding to the already growing problem of delivery delays.

On a recent day, truck driver Chris Wagner drove his large rig into a grain processing factory in Sidney, Ohio, to pick up a cargo destined for the Chicago suburbs. Because of difficulties with an earlier delivery, he’d missed his planned spot in line and had to wait until 10:45 p.m. before the facility was ready to load his trailer.

Mr. Wagner couldn’t pull up to the pier because the clock had run out on his nationally required 14-hour duty. He stayed that night on the plant’s lot in his vehicle and returned empty-handed the next morning, unable to reschedule the pickup.

Mr. Wagner, a 53-year-old former Marine from Lena, Ill., who drives for Quality Transport Co., a tiny trucking company headquartered in neighboring Freeport, said, “I waited overnight and still never got loaded.”

Trucking is emerging as a troublesome choke point in the freight-backlog nightmare, while being a key, often-overlooked element in the supply chain.

Over 70% of domestic freight shipments are transported by truck. However, as the US economy recovers from the epidemic, several fleets claim they are unable to employ enough drivers to satisfy rising customer demand.

Long-standing tensions in the sector over hours, wages, working conditions, and retention have been exacerbated by the freight backlog.

The influx of products has caused traffic congestion at loading docks and port terminals, using limited transportation capacity and making drivers’ tasks even more difficult. Staffing shortages exist at factories and warehouses as well, making it difficult to load and receive items. Meanwhile, other blue-collar occupations that compete with trucking, such as local delivery, construction, and manufacturing, have opened up as a result of the larger labor crisis.

Shortages are driving up transportation costs and delaying delivery for retailers and manufacturers that are already dealing with delays as the Christmas season approaches.


In New Jersey, a queue of trucks travels south on Interstate 95.

The Wall Street Journal’s Desiree Rios took this photo.

The American Trucking Associations, one of the industry’s main trade groups, anticipates that the sector would be short 80,000 drivers this year, up from a previous projection of 61,500 drivers before the epidemic. New trucks, trailers, and other freight-moving equipment are in limited supply, severely restricting cargo transit.

Payrolls in the trucking industry have recovered from early pandemic lows, when attempts to halt the spread of Covid-19 forced most of the sector to shut down. According to seasonally adjusted Labor Department statistics, the industry generated 74,500 jobs between April 2020 and September 2021, while total employment in trucking remained 1.3 percent lower than pre-pandemic levels in September 2019.

Fleets of all sizes are boosting compensation and offering incentives in order to attract more drivers. The American Trucking Associations is supporting legislation that would allow persons as young as 18 to drive heavy trucks over state lines, a profession that is now restricted to drivers 21 and older. According to the organisation, over a third of all drivers are now over the age of 55, and women account for just 7% of all truckers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for heavy-truck and tractor-trailer drivers was $47,130 last year, up approximately 3% to 4% yearly since 2016.

The main issue, according to several operators, isn’t a lack of drivers, but a lack of efficiency in a business that hasn’t evolved much in decades.

Many drivers are paid by the mile, and they are usually not compensated for the first two hours while waiting for freight to be loaded or unloaded. According to a 2020 poll by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, even after that window has passed, drivers seldom seek reimbursement from carriers or freight brokers for that period since they rarely get it. Any compensation for time spent waiting is usually less than what drivers would get if they were driving.

“The economic dysfunction of trucking is that a driver’s time has no value,” Todd Spencer, president of the group, which represents drivers who own or operate single heavy-duty vehicles or small truck fleets, said.

Long-term shortages of drivers and excessive job turnover have plagued the trucking business, but supply-chain bottlenecks have highlighted the need for fresh recruitment. Here’s how some businesses are attempting to get them to get behind the wheel. Getty Images/Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

According to Daniel Faircloth, CEO of Surge Transportation Group LLC, a Dallas-based carrier with 75 trucks, drivers who used to wait a few hours to pick up or unload freight now had to wait up to 12 hours.

Mr. Faircloth responded by raising the prices he charges his shipping clients and offering to give his drivers a weekly wage of $1,650. “Inefficiency across the business irritates drivers,” he added. “You assist us in being more efficient, which lowers rates.”

According to online freight marketplace DAT Solutions LLC, the average cost to rent a large rig on the “spot market,” where firms book last-minute transportation, was $2.49 per mile in September, up 14% from the same month in 2020. Since DAT started providing the statistics in 2010, this is the highest monthly average. The average price of long-term contract rates negotiated by shippers with trucking firms increased by 23% to $2.49 per mile, a record high.

Sadaya Morris, a 28-year-old driver from Plainfield, New Jersey, used to work for a port trucking firm as an independent contractor. In September 2020, she founded Pink Transportation LLC and is now able to bid for freight herself, which she claims will increase her revenues.

According to Ms. Morris, truckers often wait hours to pick up goods from the Port of New York and New Jersey, only to be delayed again while dropping off freight with consumers.

“It’s the operations that are the problem,” said Ms. Morris, who is a member of the PAR18 trucker organization, which is working to ensure port drivers get compensated for their time. “For free, we have to wait there for two hours.”

Recruiting additional drivers has been difficult in California, where cargo is piling up at the bottlenecked ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to Lisa Wan, director of operations for RoadEx CY Inc., a Carson, Calif.-based operator that hauls cargo from ports to local yards and distribution facilities.

According to her, the rise in freight has left port truckers who make such short excursions exhausted and worn out. Import volumes at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were up 25% year-to-date in September compared to the same time in 2020.


At the RoadEx headquarters yard in Carson, Calif., Ronal Giron moves containers.

The Wall Street Journal’s Allison Zaucha took this photo.

As charges to carry products out of state have increased, several port truckers who make such trips have shifted to long-haul drivers, who move freight over a distance of 250 miles or more, according to Ms. Wan.

Others have left the sector completely, opting for positions with more regular hours, or have moved to local delivery work, which does not often require overnights on the road.

Jesse Milligan, a third-generation truck driver from West Lafayette, Ohio, began driving in 2009 after being laid off from a steel plant. He drove his father’s truck across the nation hauling logs, chemicals, and military vehicles, then acquired the truck and went into business for himself.

In September of last year, he got a local job supplying and installing propane systems in order to spend more time with his family. He claimed the compensation isn’t as good as it used to be, at roughly $50,000 a year, but he gets home every night. “You have to be on the road for a couple of weeks at a time,” Mr. Milligan, 37, said of long-haul trucking. “It’s simply too difficult to organize anything with kids.”

According to the National Transportation Institute, a research body that monitors trucking industry earnings, carriers will pay drivers on average around 8% more this year. According to NTI Chief Executive Leah Shaver, some truckers earn $45,000 a year, while drivers for private fleets that transport items for manufacturers or shops might earn well over $100,000.

According to the ATA, wage increases will cause some drivers to work fewer hours at higher rates, thus reducing capacity.

Jerry Gioia, an owner-operator with a four-truck fleet headquartered in Hayden, Colorado, stated, “If they can do it in two or three days what would ordinarily take them a week, they’ll go home.”

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Due to personnel and equipment constraints, as well as a backlog of freight, big trucking firms warn that transportation challenges and increased charges might last into next year.

In an Oct. 21 earnings call, Eric Fuller, CEO of US Xpress Enterprises Inc., a big Chattanooga, Tenn.-based trucking firm, told investors, “Really, it’s all about drivers.” “There aren’t enough individuals willing to perform the job.”

Although many long-haul drivers like the freedom of driving on the open road, many resign due to low pay and bad treatment by both employers and clients.

Tyler Foster, a 53-year-old long-haul driver from Green River, Wyoming, claims that some large trucking corporations regard employees as disposable. “They basically work them hard, pay them very little, and fire them after three to six months,” he said.


Trucks exit the Port of Long Beach at Southern California’s Long Beach Container Terminal.

The Wall Street Journal’s Allison Zaucha took this photo.

Mr. Foster and other truckers claim that other customers aren’t any better, and that they make drivers wait hours for freight in circumstances that have become worse since companies imposed limits intended at preventing the spread of Covid.

“Basically, the shippers treat us like criminals.” Mr. Foster said, “Don’t use the restroom, and don’t get out of your vehicle.” “It’s 25 degrees outside, but there’s a port-a-potty in the yard.”

According to Gail Rutkowski, executive director of the National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council, which represents transportation professionals at businesses that ship and receive goods, such as retailers, manufacturers, and distributors, some companies are working with carriers to address those problems by streamlining the way they receive freight and keeping facilities like bathrooms and waiting rooms open to drivers.

Government rules, according to drivers and fleet owners, may be invasive or reduce driver wages, causing some to quit. These include laws aimed at reducing weariness by electronically recording drivers’ time behind the wheel, as well as phasing out the usage of older vehicles near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to prevent pollution.

According to several truckers, a 2020 legislation requiring employers to designate independent contractors as employees has caused a number of California drivers to either leave the state or accept other employment. According to the California Trucking Association, the bill would effectively restrict a longstanding business practice and damage independent truckers who move freight for California-based trucking firms. A lawsuit challenging the association’s applicability to trucking has been appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Trucking’s employment problems, according to Steve Viscelli, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania who analyzes the business, are mostly due to a labor model that churns through inexperienced drivers.

Mr. Viscelli said, “There is simply no scarcity of persons licensed and educated to execute that work.” “They departed because the industry burnt so many of them.”


The yard of RoadEx is filled with a mix of empty and full cargo containers.

The Wall Street Journal’s Allison Zaucha took this photo.

According to June statistics from the state’s department of motor vehicles, more than 468,000 persons in California have Class A commercial driver’s licenses, enabling them to operate vehicles such as heavy-duty trucks and tractor-trailers. Mr. Viscelli estimates that fewer than half of those persons are employed in positions that require a commercial driver’s license in the state, and that there are millions more people qualified as commercial drivers than are actually employed as truck drivers nationwide.

“The real concern is how to convince people to come back,” he continued, “if we were to raise capacity fast.”

According to David Heller, vice president of government relations for the Truckload Carriers Association, reducing on-the-job problems such as a shortage of parking and long wait times will help make the work more fulfilling for drivers.

“If you reduce those waiting periods to the very minimum, all of the present drivers could move more freight, which basically means you can expand effective capacity without adding a single truck,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.

Customers that keep Jim Orr, a 65-year-old independent trucker from Chandler, Oklahoma, waiting don’t get loads. He seldom works more than 500 miles from home and has little compassion for companies complaining about high transportation prices.

Mr. Orr explained that this is how capitalism works. “I’m sure they weren’t worried two years ago when we were fortunate to receive half of what we’re receiving today.” “It’s all about the market…feast or famine.”


Trucks in the Los Angeles Port.

The Wall Street Journal’s Allison Zaucha took this photo.

Jennifer Smith can be reached at [email protected]

Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

The “effects of driver shortage” is a problem that has been present for a while. The shortage of truck drivers has led to delays in delivery times, which are already at an all-time high.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the current truck driver shortage?

A: The current truck driver shortage is the result of a lack of interest in becoming a truck driver. This means that there are not enough people eager to become new drivers, which has caused an increase in pay for those who are willing to take on this job..

What will replace truck drivers?

A: The answer to this is unknown at the moment. As technology advances, it seems likely that robots will replace many of our current jobs. But for now, human beings are still needed in order to run the public and private sector.

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