driver shortages with cross-hatch

Is There Really a Driver Shortage?

Has your shipping department been affected by the driver shortage? How many times has a transportation partner complained that their trucks are empty? That your freight spend is going to reflect this shortage? It’s the dominant narrative in the industry, and if it’s keeping you up at night, you’re not alone.

Good news. A new article by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, examines the data and finds that the market for truckload drivers was somewhat tight during the period from 2003 to 2017. However, the market for drivers overall has been relatively stable, with “occupational attachment” of truck drivers a bit higher than other blue-collar occupations. This is in direct contrast with the story propagated by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the transportation media at large.

It’s no secret that truck drivers are important. In 2016, 61% of the total freight transported in the US was hauled by trucks. As the authors of the article note, “Trucking is the primary mode of freight transportation within the United States and a crucial component of international trade. In 2016, 65% of the value of goods transported between the United States and its neighboring countries (Canada and Mexico) was carried by truck.”


Large Carriers


Here at AM Transport, we can see how the larger narrative of a driver shortage has taken hold. When shippers work with big carriers comprised of large fleets, they will consistently hear about the driver shortage and its effect on freight prices. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics article shows the “driver shortage,” if it exists, is likely more a driver retention problem in the segment of truckload drivers working for mega carriers.


Small to Midsize Carriers


On the other hand, shippers working with small carriers might find something completely different. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the number of small fleets of one to six trucks has skyrocketed, rising 69.3 percent to 184,555 as of May 2018. William Cassidy writes in the Journal of Commerce that these figures illustrate the fact that “there’s no driver shortage for trucking companies with one to six trucks, which increased their driver pool by 69% from 2012 to 2018. Carriers with seven to 20 trucks increased their number of drivers by 37 percent.”


So if there isn’t a shortage of drivers, where are they? We’ve been saying it for a while, but we don’t mind saying it again–small to midsize carriers with fleets of one to 20 trucks are not struggling for drivers, and that’s where you’ll find capacity because they’d like to haul your freight.


How do YOU find these small to midsize carriers?


Not with the mega brokers. They work with the mega carriers who promise bottom dollar prices. And when someone is promising you bottom dollar, your load is more likely to get dropped if/and when they get a better offer. And soon that low rate has turned into a last minute high rate.

You want to work with a small broker who has your best interests at heart. You want to work with a broker who knows and works with only the best small carriers. Here at AM Transport we have long-term relationships with a core group of small carriers, and these carriers will never work with big brokers. Their fleets are small and they’re local. We have access to capacity that your current broker has never seen and probably never will.


Don’t waste your time thinking about the driver shortage–if there is one. Give us a call today and experience what it’s like to work with an elite group of small carriers who will save you time, money, and frustration.