The trucking industry has struggled mightily to recruit and retain talented truck drivers for years now. As a result, by 2024 the driver shortage is expected to reach 175,000 (CCJ). Other factors contributing to the driver shortage include extended periods of time spent away from home, irregular schedules, and various regulatory demands. Exacerbating the problem is industry growth combined with baby-boomer retirements.
Given the need for new entrants who are required to be increasingly tech savvy, the industry is looking for ways to get younger. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) is looking to create a Younger Driver Assessment Tool to identify young drivers who exhibit the same characteristics as safe, experienced commercial drivers. Their research suggests that safety outcomes may be improved by selecting drivers with specific personality, health, and cognitive characteristics.
Drivers in the 18-25-year-old range represent an untapped group for the industry. This is due to regulations requiring an individual to be 21 years of age before they can obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to operate interstate. Therefore, individuals interested in becoming a truck driver before the age of 21 are restricted to operating intrastate. For example, in New York State an 18-year-old can receive a Non-CDL C license. They cannot transport hazardous material or drive a school bus intrastate. They are eligible to transport other freight within New York. This means that a 20-year-old can transport cargo from Brooklyn to Buffalo but not from Harlem to Hoboken.
The age restrictions result in those who would otherwise be interested in a career in trucking to seek employment with other industries. This is a shame because trucking represents a great career opportunity for those in the 18-25-year-old range who may not wish to attend college. The cost of entry for trucking is significantly less than the cost of a 4-year or even a 2-year school. Also, the average industry salary in the state is $52,191, which goes much further when there are no costly student loans to pay.
Obviously, young drivers represent a greater risk and are much harder and costlier to insure. However, if we can at least limit younger driver to day trips we could go a long way to growing the talent pool in the industry long-term while solving a short-term need. The Younger Driver Assessment Tool is a very interesting and worthwhile project that ATRI is embarking on.