HoustonTransportation & Infrastructure

U.S. Trucking Industry Grapples with Driver Dilemma Amid Booming Demand

U.S. Trucking Industry Grapples with Driver Dilemma Amid Booming DemandSource: Unsplash/ Pascal Meier
John Becker
Published on November 29, 2023

As convoys of trucks surge across the country to address the increased demand during the holiday season, the trucking sector confronts a substantial challenge sparked by the pressing need for thousands of additional drivers. With the economics of trucking throwing a hefty spanner in the works, an issue recently hauled into the spotlight by FOX 26 Houston, which reported the need for a whopping 80,000 new drivers to cut down the industry's deficit.

While some claim a driver shortage haunts the highways, researchers argue that the real problem is the industry's sky-high turnover rates. With the American Journal of Transportation citing a study underscoring this dilemma, the complexities twist deeper, questioned by those weary of long hours on the roads and the daunting reality that greets new drivers under the false promise of open roads and free spirits. "This is a profession," Texas College's Transportation Institute lead instructor Martin Molina told FOX 26 Houston,, "It's not just a regular guy driving a truck. They are held to a higher standard."

According to an investigation into the industry's turnover turmoil by FreightWaves, a root cause is what they call 'destructive competition.' This sees trucking companies stuck in a cycle of constantly hiring and rehiring, with the study by the University of Minnesota Morris noting, "high turnover among truckload carriers is 'likely structural.'" 

Cedric LaRue, a student and truck company owner, shared, according to FOX 26 Houston, "You don't have any clue, as far as all the things they have to pay attention to inside that truck; shifting gears; maintaining safety for themselves and other people on the road."

Matthew Albrecht, a former over-the-road truck driver, told FreightWaves, "It’s more of a driver retention problem."

NAPFTDS Region Four conference in Corpus Christi Brent Lauber, from the Kelly Anderson Group, shared with FreightWaves that a focus on driver retention could be a pivotal turn for the industry, emphasizing, “There are so many things that companies can do that really don’t cost them anything." Albrecht also noted companies could swerve into better retention by improving pay and home time, suggesting a relay system for load swapping to keep drivers closer to home.

HoustonTransportation & Infrastructure