It appears the industry is no closer to emerging from the trucking crisis with the American Trucking Associations (ATA) reporting that the shortage has even spiked, reaching its highest levels to date.

“Over the past 15 years, we’ve watched the shortage rise and fall with economic trends, but it ballooned last year to the highest level we’ve seen to date,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “The increase in the truck driver shortage should be a warning because if conditions don’t change the trucking industry could be short 100,000 drivers in five years and 160,000 drivers in 2028.

The ATA says “The trucking industry needs to find ways to attract more and younger drivers,” Costello continued. “Whether by removing barriers for younger drivers to begin careers as drivers, attracting more demographic diversity into the industry or easing the transition for veterans, we need to do more to recruit and retain drivers. That includes increasing pay — which happened at a brisk pace last year — to keep pace with demand, addressing lifestyle factors like getting drivers more time at home and improving conditions on the job like reducing wait times at shipper facilities.”

Many fleets instituted guaranteed minimum weekly pay in 2018 so drivers would have a more consistent paycheck. Sign-on bonuses and good benefits packages have also been used throughout the industry as competition for drivers heats up. ATA expects that driver pay will continue rising as long as the driver shortage continues.

To meet the nation’s freight demand, the report said the trucking industry will need to hire 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade – an average of 110,000 per year to replace retiring drivers and keep up with growth in the economy.