American Trucking Associations participated in a roundtable discussion today on driver retention hosted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. ATA’s Executive Vice Presidency of Advocacy Bill Sullivan joined U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and FMCSA Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi, along with a panel of other stakeholders, to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the trucking workforce and federal policymakers.
“The COVID pandemic made Americans more acutely aware of how critical truckers are in sustaining the high standards of living we enjoy in this country,” said Sullivan. “We appreciate Secretaries Buttigieg and Walsh and FMCSA Deputy Administrator Joshi for their leadership in providing a forum to strengthen collaboration as we work together on positive solutions that improve highway safety, make our supply chain more resilient and grow our workforce.”
Sullivan addressed several topics, including the industry’s proactive safety record, support for improved infrastructure and the growing need for more truck drivers across the country. The trucking industry moves more than 72% of total domestic freight tonnage, with more than 80% of U.S. communities relying exclusively on trucks to receive their goods. Projections show the industry will need to hire roughly 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade, or an average of nearly 110,000 per year, to keep pace with retirements and the nation’s growing freight transportation needs.
Sullivan stressed the industry’s high priority of reaching new talent – including the recruitment of more urban, rural, female and younger drivers – to help stem the tide of attrition. The median age of truck drivers is well above national average of all workers. And since federal regulations prevent younger drivers from participating in interstate trucking earlier in their careers, the average age of new drivers being trained is 35 – making trucking a career of last resort, rather than first choice, for many.
“Our industry won’t move offshore and is a solid path to the middle class for men and women willing to join,” he said. The median salary for a truckload driver working a national, irregular route was reported most recently at over $53,000, and wages have gone up substantially on average in the first half of 2021. Since 2014, private fleet drivers have seen their pay rise from $73,000 to more than $86,000, or a gain of nearly 18%.
“The bottom line is the trucking industry is hiring and paying great wages to drivers,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan also emphasized the positive correlation between increases in compensation and turnover rates. As demand for freight transportation and a scarcity of available truck drivers pushes compensation up, turnover increases as drivers jump between fleets competing for their services. Many small- and medium-sized fleets have increased pay by 10% or more in recent months, with some offering $10,000 signing bonuses.