ATLANTA, GA – From backlogged ports to shipping container shortages, the supply chain of goods has been disrupted by the pandemic in a way logistics experts once thought unthinkable --- and it is worsening due to a trend on America’s roads.
According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), the industry needs to hire over 60,000 drivers nationwide to meet the growing demand.
Richard Sneden decided to become a truck driver nearly 30 years ago. Sneden says there is a demand for truck drivers now more than ever before.
"At some point in time everything in this country has to go on a truck - the clothes you wear, the food you eat, the gas you put in your car. If it ain’t for truck drivers you don’t have all of that stuff," Sneden said.
Brad Barber CEO of the Georgia Driving Academy which trains drivers, added, "over 70 percent of all the goods shipped in the country are carried by a truck."
The trucking industry is working to meet the demand, but it is only expected to continue to increase. According to the ATA more than 1 million truck drivers will be needed to answer America's supply chain challenges.
New drivers are applying for openings, but many applicants have to go through training before ever getting behind the wheel. Barber has trained hundreds of students since he started the driving academy in 1995, but said that nationwide some 50,000 "fewer drivers were trained last year because of COVID." Barber said.
As a result, trucks are sitting empty and goods are not getting delivered on time.
"They're turning down loads in Georgia – several hundreds, thousand dollars in loads per day because they don’t have the drivers to make those deliveries," Barber said.
Brad Ball, the President of the Roadmaster Drivers school, a chain of truck driving schools across the country.
The veteran trucking instructor says now is the perfect time to get into the trucking industry as there are "carriers all around the country that are offering higher pay, higher bonuses, there adding new benefits…there doing everything they can to try and attract the incentives workforce to start a career in trucking."
Despite an increase of incentives to attract new drivers, so far it has not been enough to quell the shortage concerns.
"So, when the economy started coming back to life and stimulus checks hit, ecommerce exploded then all of a sudden the shortage came back very strong. And now it’s even stronger than I’ve ever seen it. I think If we see the additional unemployment dry up – we’re going to see these people get into new careers," Ball said.
The CEO of Sisu Energy, Jim Grundy is offering experienced drivers $14,000 a week in Texas. Grundy said solving the driver problem is going to take time to figure out.
"Out of the half-million applicants we’ve had, 70 percent of them are from states that are not open yet or that are still under restrictions," Grundy said.
Atlanta-based trucking company, SAIA Freight is looking to 500 driver positions. Jerrod Hill, the company's talent manager, noted SIAA didn’t lay off any truckers during the pandemic, yet still needs to fill trucks.
"Our demand picked up and with the increase in demand and our premium shipping services we’ve had to increase our head count as a matter of fact. We’re offering a 7,500-dollar sign on bonus in select markets," Hill said.
Trucking companies warn that the prices of gas and goods will increase throughout the summer until the truck driver shortage is under control.
"It’s the U.S. vs the pandemic and we’re going to recover one truck at a time," SISU Energy's Grundy said.