Trucking companies are facing a critical shortage of qualified drivers. American Trucking Associations notes the industry has struggled with a persistent driver shortage, which reached more than 60,000 at the end of 2018. ATA predicts that, by 2028, that number will exceed 160,000. A large labor shortage carries heavy financial risks, but the trucking industry can do a few things to mitigate those risks.
In over-the-road or non-local trucking, the average driver is 46 years old and male. ATA estimates the long-haul trucking industry will need to hire 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade as older drivers retire. Obvious areas for recruiting are women and younger men. In 2018, 6.6% of truck drivers were women. Eighteen years earlier, women represented 4.5%. Trucking firms simply haven’t made much progress in recruiting women as commercial drivers.
Risks the trucking industry faces if it can’t fix the driver shortage include:
- Inability to meet shipping demand. This is a major problem, and not solely for trucking firms. Because the majority of the nation’s freight moves on trucks, the U.S. economy would suffer.
- Higher expenses to recruit available drivers. The American Transportation Research Institute calculates that driver compensation accounts for 43% of a motor carrier’s operating expenses. To coax drivers to leave competing motor carriers, trucking firms already are offering more pay and richer benefits – costs that are likely to keep rising.
- Pressure to cut corners on safety and compliance. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates hours of service limitations, along with other measures intended to keep the trucking industry operating safely. Motor carriers might be tempted to bend the rules to fulfill shipping contracts, or they might pay less attention to maintenance.
- Greater liability exposure for accidents. Experienced drivers with exemplary records are in high demand, but with a labor shortage, motor carriers might feel compelled to lower their hiring standards. That could mean an increase in accident frequency. Loss severity in long-haul trucking is already alarmingly high, with numerous multimillion-dollar liability verdicts across the country.
- More potential for cargo losses. Motor carriers typically strive to reduce deadheading by backhauling different kinds of cargo. For example, hauling chemicals on the outbound leg and food products on the backhaul could lead to adulteration of the food, resulting in a loss. Feeling pressure by the driver shortage and wanting to make every load count, motor carriers might reduce the turnaround time on trailer cleaning, with bad results for cargo owners and consignor/receivers.
Advantages of women drivers
Statistics indicate that women are safer drivers than men. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, women drivers:
Cause fewer fatalities. In 2018, women drivers accounted for 29% of all vehicle crash deaths, vs. 71% for male drivers. Among fatal crashes involving large trucks, 3% involved women drivers.
Speed less often. From 1982 to 2018, women drivers accounted for 33% fewer speeding-related fatal accidents than men.
Wear seat belts consistently. In 2018, women drivers accounted for 29% of all vehicle crash deaths, vs. 71% for male drivers. Among fatal crashes involving large trucks, 3% involved women drivers.
Other research, including a study by Omnitracs, suggests that women truck drivers:
Have fewer severe accidents. From 1982 to 2018, women drivers accounted for 33% fewer speeding-related fatal accidents than men.
Stay on the job. Turnover among female drivers is lower than that of male drivers.
Women, in general, tend to be more prepared for tasks, make better team players, want to make a difference, seek challenges, and take better care of their health and their equipment. Motor carriers should enlist women to help fill the talent shortage and reduce risks in the trucking industry.
Tokio Marine America can help motor carriers and their risk advisers navigate the complexity of motor truck cargo. We’re a digitally savvy insurer that understands transportation logistics and cargo risks. We help manage conventional and emerging risks through our expertise and proprietary needed coverages. During times of change and stress, we prove our value by focusing on delivering Anshin, the Japanese word for safety, security and peace of mind.