Amid Trucker Shortage, High Prices Loom

Keep on truckin’ — if you can find the drivers.

The Washington Post reported that the trucking industry, that linchpin of last-mile deliveries, is facing a driver shortage, which is having a ripple effect on commerce in general, marked by rising prices.

The shortage is strong enough that some trucking outfits have been boosting salaries, markedly, in the double-digit percentage ranges. The shortage has also been making it tough to find available trucks (which need drivers, of course) and thus making speedy deliveries of goods (and, by extension, some services).

Reported the Post: “Shipping costs have skyrocketed in the United States,” thus far into 2018, causing all sorts of other price tags to inflate. Consider the fact that Amazon Prime is now 20 percent more expensive than it had been previously, and that hike applies to two-day shipping.

The impact is extending to the breakfast table. Cereal prices are going up too, as General Mills has said, and even the farm may feel a little pinch, as John Deere, which makes tractors and other equipment, also gave a nod to shipping costs for higher prices on its own offerings. Even Walmart has said shipping costs are having an effect on business, including margins. Thus, inflation — and widespread inflation, at that.

All in, it costs $1.85 a mile to bring dry goods to their destinations, a number up 40 percent from last year, as estimated by DAT Solutions.

Welcome to what the Post termed a “perfect storm” for the truckers: Demand is there for trucks, but unemployment is low (at last count hovering around 4 percent), and there is a demographic and technological shift afoot too. What might be a longer-lived pool of drivers, sourced through younger workers, is anything but deep. That’s because they see self-driving trucks on the horizon, which may give pause to a career on the road.

The shortage is in the thousands, Bob Costello, chief economist at the American  Trucking Association, told the Post — to the tune of 51,000 drivers in 2017. That’s up from 36,000 drivers two years ago. The toll will keep rising this year, said the economist, who noted, “it’s as bad as it’s ever been.”


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