US trucking industry between a rock and a hard place

In News3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 2, 2021

Application rates for trucker jobs in the United States are falling, despite big increases in job advertisements, according to a US recruiter.

In a blog post on, Oliver Feakins, president of All Truck Jobs, a job recruitment site for truck drivers and carriers, said application rates are falling despite a 100% increase in trucking companies on its board and job counts increasing by more than 30%.

Feakins said the drop in applications shows drivers are being selective in their job choices.

“The demand for their skills is at a fever pitch and companies who want to stay competitive are rolling out generous pay packages and more home time to attract them,” he said.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Feakins said trucking companies in the US had been “growing at aggressive rates”. However, once lockdowns started, companies saw available freight dry up and many carriers had to lay off drivers, while some companies went out of business.

“This created a surplus of drivers fighting for limited jobs,” he said.

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 88,000 jobs disappeared in the truck transportation sector in April 2020, a 6.2% year-over-year decline.

In January 2021, the American Trucking Association and dozens of state trucking associations called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to reclassify truck drivers into priority group ‘1b’ of the committee’s vaccination order recommendations.

In February, ATA also submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, requesting it revise its guidance on mask requirements for team drivers. DOT updated its guidance stating team drivers are not required to wear a mask in the cab of a commercial motor vehicle if the vehicle occupants are individuals who all live in the same household and are the only persons in the vehicle.

According to Feakins, there is frustration amongst motor carriers trying to hire drivers.

“Some trucking companies blame the extended unemployment benefits for the lack of driver interest. In some cases, the government’s additional unemployment compensation amounts came within 30% or even exceeded, potential driver income,” he said.

He expects to see a significant shift in the hiring and recruiting trends of truck drivers as the economy expands, unemployment compensation contracts and supply chain issues are corrected.

“Carriers need to understand that the shortage is real, and they need to align expectations and become competitive to thrive,” Feakins said.

“Trucking companies that fail to meet the demands of the market will have to spend far more money to hire or fail to staff their trucks and move their freight. Just like the pandemic, this is something that the industry is navigating together, and nobody is immune. I believe it will take many years for the market to correct itself.