Curfman Trucking and Repair Fleet of Trucks.jpg

Pictured is Curfman Trucking and Repair’s fleet of trucks in Norwood Young America. (Derek Tellier/News & Times)

You don’t have to look very hard to find evidence of a truck driver shortage. In fact, the evidence practically finds you. An abundance of “Drivers Wanted” ads appear online, in newspapers, and on the radio. In cafes and taverns, you can hear conversational grumbling about trucks sitting unmanned and truck driving positions remaining unfulfilled. If you order any kind of merchandise to be delivered, no matter if it’s for your business or your own personal use, more and more people are surprised if it actually arrives on time. Plus, can you even count how many times you have heard the term “supply chain issues” lately?

According to the Minnesota Trucking Association, an industry advocate and thought leader, Minnesota has a 5,285 truck driver deficit, which is the largest it has ever faced.

If you would like to sound the concern alarm, consider this: American Trucking Associations estimates that over the next decade, nationally, we’ll need 1 million new truck drivers to replace those who retire and to keep up with projected demand.

Steve Curfman is case in point. He runs Curfman Trucking and Repair in Norwood Young America. Curfman, now in his seventies, still spends a great deal of time driving his own rigs. He said that driving at his age wasn’t the plan, but what can you do? Curfman said he’ll need 4 or 5 new drivers yet this spring, but “do you know how confident I am that I’ll find them?”

For the last two summers, he has had 2 to 3 trucks of his fleet just sitting still, not doing anything. When you don’t have people to run the equipment, you miss money making opportunities. Curfman recently sold one of his trailers. He said the shortage of trucking equipment is about as bad as the shortage of drivers – sellers can get good prices right now.

Drivers already in the industry are leaving their companies to take more money elsewhere. They know they can get it.

So why do we have a truck driver shortage, or, do we even dare ask, is there a shortage at all? President of Watertown’s Stonwerk, Inc., Reed Homola, says, “I feel like there is actually not a shortage of truckers, but rather that the trucking industry has seen a massive increase in necessity because of the rise of online shopping, etc.” He hopes the industry can step up its recruiting efforts. He adds, “It seems like the whole world – our whole world around here anyway – has accepted the notion that deliveries are not guaranteed. The issue for us is typically not that we can’t get the needed material produced, but only the shipping part of it.”

Lots of trucking insiders believe more and better recruiting efforts are necessary. Unfortunately, the industry itself is up against some enormous roadblocks.

Smart Trucking points to three major blockades:

• Driver facing dash cams. Truckers view them as an invasion of privacy.

• The Drug ClearingHouse. Many current and would-be drivers cannot pass a drug test.

• Vaccines. They’re mandated for CDL holders.

American Trucking Associations adds that other huge factors are time away from home, a lack of truck parking spots, and potential candidates’ inability to pass background checks and meet driving records requirements.

Fewer and fewer people are willing to live a truck driver’s lifestyle.

One thing that could help is lowering the age requirement. Currently, twenty-one is the federally mandated minimum age to drive commercially across state lines. Lowering the minimum age to eighteen could attract a vast number of new candidates.

Reed Homola points to another part of the solution. “I believe that the use of technology – things like the Tesla semi being used in large scale – would give a much needed boost of youth interest in this industry.”

The Trucking Association concludes: “The solution to the driver shortage will most certainly require increased pay, regulatory changes and modifications to shippers’, receivers’ and carriers’ business practices to improve conditions for drivers.”

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