How the Truck Driver Shortage Impacts the Building Materials Industry

If there’s one concern that’s being voiced by nearly everyone in the building industry, it’s today’s truck driver shortage. The American Trucking Association says that there is a shortage of around 50,000 truckers in the United States. What does this mean? For materials manufacturers and suppliers, builders and everyone else in the industry, it means that costs will be rising, and delays may start to become commonplace. Read on for a discussion of why the trucker shortage is happening and what impacts it could have.

Why is the Truck Driver Shortage Happening?

So what is causing this crisis? There are a lot of factors to look at. For one thing, the average age of truck drivers is going up. This means that lots of drivers are going into retirement. But, younger people are less interested truck driving as a career, so there aren’t enough young workers coming into the industry to replace those who are aging out. The problem compounded by the fact that many trucking companies are saying that only perhaps 2% of job applicants are qualified for the job.

Another issue that is impacting the trucking industry is the fact that the United States is coming out of the Great Recession. The demand for products is rising rapidly in most sectors. This leads to a two-fold problem: Workers are able to choose from among a plethora of jobs that pay the same as trucking while allowing a more comfortable lifestyle that allows them to come home each night. Meanwhile, the shrinking population of truck drivers has more goods to haul than ever before — and on top of it, everyone from businesses to consumers is expecting faster delivery.

Online shopping plays another part in this, too. With online sales growing about 500% between 1995 and today, it’s no longer a matter of shipping from warehouse to stores like Walmart, Target or grocery stores. Now, there is a need for even more truckers on the road as distribution centers for online stores like Amazon pop up all over the United States. More and more, the truck driving industry is finding itself hauling products for the online shopping industry, which means there are fewer drivers hauling goods for the building industry.

How the Trucker Shortage Impacts the Building Industry

One of the main ways that the trucker shortage is impacting the building materials industry is in rising costs. In 2017 alone, the truck driving income per mile increased by 15%. Freight charges aren’t something that can be avoided or minimized, either — 70% of freight in the United States is hauled by truck drivers. This is a cost that materials suppliers are paying, and they have to pass some of that cost along to their own customers to make ends meet. And it’s not just builders who are feeling the effects in rising materials costs. Even services like Amazon Prime are raising their rates in order to cover the increasing costs.

In Canada, builders and materials suppliers are already seeing delayed lumber deliveries. The truck driver shortage means that there’s not enough drivers to haul the lumber, and here again, it also means that builders and materials suppliers are facing higher costs, since slowdowns and work stoppages cost time and money.

In the United States, shipping delays are anticipated in the future. It may be that building manufacturers struggle to get things like windows, doors and siding onto a truck and on the road. The trucker shortage is expected to balloon up to over 200,000 by 2022. This means that not only will shipping costs be high, but suppliers will be fighting over a dwindling number of trucks to get their products out the door.

There are some proposed solutions in the works for the trucker shortage. The Trump Administration is considering lowering the legal age for truckers to 18, which could potentially expand the workforce. Meanwhile, some trucking companies are working to raise pay or provide attractive benefits that make the job more palatable to a young workforce that has a lot of other, more attractive options available. Time will tell if these measures will be enough or if industry insiders will have to work to find other solutions to this problem.