U.S. Economy Keep on Trucking’ Even Without Drivers

According to Market Watch, if the nine-year-old U.S. expansion finally grinds to a halt, a lack of truck drivers is likely to be a culprit in fouling up the gears of the economy.

A shortage of truck drivers has been building for several years, but now the problem is especially acute. Companies increasingly complain about longer delivery times for supplies and rising transportation costs — costs that could lead to higher prices for consumers and more inflation.

“The supply chain is shuttering because of a lack of drivers and equipment causing delays in multiple modes of transportation,” a wholesale-industry executive told the Institute of Supply Management in its May survey of service-oriented businesses. Another executive said flat-beds are especially in short supply.

The Federal Reserve’s period survey of economic conditions across the country has also pointed to a scarcity of truck drivers. In the mid-Atlantic region stretching from Maryland to South Carolina, for example, the Fed said: “driver shortages have led some trucking companies to turn some business away.” The problem isn’t going away anytime soon, either.

An industry trade group says the U.S. needs at least 30,000 additional drivers to handle all the goods being transported, a number that is expected to increase as older truckers retire. More than half of the nation’s estimated 3.5 million truckers are 45 or older. And almost all are men.

Yet recruitment of new drivers has fallen short owing in part to broad changes in society. More people than ever go to college, fewer and fewer Americans move each year and many are not interested in all the travel involved. Truckers are often away for days or weeks at a time, making it hard for families. Transportation companies are raising wages and benefits to try to attract more drivers, but it’s only a partial panacea.

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