The American Trucking Association (ATA) reported in its latest US Truck Driver Shortage Analysis and Forecast that the US has a shortage of 20,000 long-haul, heavy duty truck drivers. This figure (if current demographic and labor force conditions continue at the current rate) will grow to 111,000 by 2014, the report said.

“The driver market is the tightest it has been in 20 years,”ATA president and CEO Bill Graves said. “It's a major limitation to the amount of freight that motor carriers can haul. It's critical that we find ways to tap a new labor pool, increase wages and recruit new people into the industry that keeps our national economy moving.”

Of the 3.4 million truck drivers on the road, 1.3 million are long-haul truckers, the driver segment most severely impacted by the shortage. The shortage is made worse by a high degree of driver churning-large truckload carriers reported an average annual staff turnover of 121% last year.

The supply of new long-haul heavy truck drivers is expected to grow at an annual rate of just 1.6% in the next decade. But Global Insight, the economic consulting firm that conducted the study for ATA, forecast that over the next 10 years economic growth will generate a need for a 2.2% average annual increase in long-haul heavy truck drivers, or 320,000 jobs overall. Another 219,000 must be found to replace drivers 55 and older who will retire in the next decade, putting total expansion and replacement hiring needs at 539,000 or an average of 54,000 new drivers a year for the next decade.

Many drivers exited the long-haul trucking industry after average weekly earnings fell 9% below average construction earnings in the 2000 recession and current wages have failed to match pre-2000 figures, which were on average 6-7% higher than average construction wages.

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