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Truck driver shortage is causing supply chain disruptions. Here’s what that means for you

America doesn't have enough truck drivers
Posted at 2:55 PM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-22 01:30:01-04

Most of the items you buy get to you, in part, by trucks. Right now, many trucking companies are facing a driver shortage, which could make it harder for you to get what you need.

“The demand for [commercial driver’s license] drivers has dramatically increased. Right now, it’s as a height I've never seen it, as in demand, as right now,” Don Mutters, an admissions rep at Great Lakes Truck Driving School, said.

Like driver’s ed, students here at Great Lakes Truck Driving School are guided by instructors through maneuvers and cones. After 200 hours and a test, they’ll have their commercial driver’s license.

“The volume, you would be surprised at how many calls and inquiries and people trying to get into school,” Mutters said.

Classrooms are full, and trucking companies desperate for new hires know it -- visiting the students before they’ve finished the course.

“No exaggeration, the demand is, to use a cliche, through the roof. Trucking companies are calling us every single day,” Mutters said.

He explained things have been hectic due to the shortage of truck drivers.

“The need, I don't see it ever diminishing,” Mutters said.

These students have their work cut out for them once they complete the necessary schooling.

“I like it when they’re all running, naturally, but you got to have drivers to put in them, so we got plenty of work,” Gene Carson, VP of Operations at Cleveland Express Trucking, said while standing out in the lot of trucks.

Outside the Cleveland Express Trucking facility sits a giant hiring sign.

“There are not as many resumes to choose from as there were maybe six to eight months ago," Carson said. "The smaller companies, they always had more of a challenge hiring, but it's nothing like it is now. I kind of get excited when I get a resume show up that’s been sent to me.”

He said it’s the worst he’s seen during his years in the industry. He’s having trouble hiring and says it’s due to several factors: more regulations on drivers, long-travel away from home, and concerns about job security as more autonomous vehicles hit the road.

“There’s a lot of things going on,” Carson said.

The American Trucking Association recently announced the industry needs to hire nearly 61,000 drivers as soon as possible to meet demand.

Roughly 1.1 million new drivers are needed in the next decade to support the current economic demands.

“Everything has to work in the right place, right time, the right amount to make everything possible,” Dr. Jen-Yi Chen, an associate professor of operations and supply chain management at the Cleveland State University, said. “People buy more in-house over the internet and online, consume more, and that requires more logistics and transportation. This imbalance creates a big problem for the supply chain.”

Dr. Chen said this could mean higher prices or shipping delays for Americans, some of which we’ve already seen. And without more drivers, the problem isn't going away.

“We are expecting the summer demand to pick up, like back to school. And then we're going to get into the holiday season, so it won't be until next year if ever to come back,” Dr. Chen said.

That’s why schools like Great Lakes continue helping potential drivers graduate. “Once you're enrolled here, we work with the students until they pass,” Mutters said.

They hope to get more drivers on the road and to keep them there.

“Literally every product, every consumable we all use on a daily basis...eventually it gets onto a truck and transported to a store, and we all rely on that,” Mutters said.