Fixing the Supply Chain’s Trucking Crisis

Can we fix the supply chain’s trucking crisis in the short term?

It’s tempting to hope that a few key moves will help us get U.S. supply chains back on track. But while unclogging our ports may move trucks around, it will not fix the supply chain’s even bigger woes with trucking capacity. And juggling trucks definitely won’t help the nation grow a larger driver pool. Or position—or reposition—existing drivers so they are in the right place at the right time to drive trucks.

Where are all the good drivers?

The U.S. has had problems with hiring new drivers for years. Carriers can’t put new truck drivers to work after a couple of hours of on-the-job training. A new truck driver faces months of professional training, licensure, and testing.

And too few people are lining up to take on the responsibilities. DC Velocityreports that the trucking industry is currently short 80,000 drivers—a number that could rise to 160,000 by 2030, based on the American Trucking Associations (ATA) recently released 2021 Driver Shortage Update. This year’s figure is up from a high of 61,000 in 2018. Levels had fallen in 2019 and began to climb again in 2020, according to ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.

But the shortage of truck drivers isn’t the only problem affecting trucking capacity. Lifestyle issues, driver pay, high turnover, and difficulty attracting younger workers and women are all long-standing issues for the industry. Pandemic-related challenges simply added to the need for drivers.

The supply chain’s trucking crisis: Significant issues heading into 2022

Here are a few significant issues to keep in mind as we head into 2022:

  • Since the beginning of the pandemic, more drivers have moved to smaller carriers or found jobs in the final-mile delivery segment, which is somewhat like heavy-duty trucking but with less federal oversight and potentially more flexible work schedules for drivers.
  • FleetOwner reports that after the U.S. economy and trucking industry made a strong recovery from the pandemic late last year, trucking hiring flattened out through the first five months of 2021.
  • Drivers are becoming more challenging to recruit and harder to keep.
  • Active truck utilization is a complex mix of driver demand, driver supply, and truck and driver productivity. And unfortunately, truck driver productivity has suffered as drivers chase bonuses and hop from one fleet to another, losing time during transitions and making it difficult for shippers to find the right resources to meet demand.

Meanwhile, post-holiday consumer demand will likely remain high in 2021 and into 2022, as shortages of certain products could lead to a bump in the sale of gift cards that will push more holiday shopping into early 2022 and keep freight lanes full.

It’s more important than ever to locate the best trucking talent on the road

Focusing on unclogging the ports is not the answer to the supply chain’s trucking crisis. The focus needs to be on both finding truck drivers and improving efficiencies in your trucking operations. Axele can help you find better loads, automate day-to-day manual tasks, connect with accounting systems, and communicate directly with drivers to increase productivity and efficiencies. With more-digitized trucking operations, you can help your drivers run smoother and faster. Contact Axele today at

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