The U.S. trucking industry is facing a crisis: not enough truck drivers to keep up with demand. This shortage is causing a ripple effect for professionals across every industry who depend on shipping or receiving goods over land transportation. This, of course, impacts almost every industry, and publishing is no exception. In fact, many publishers may face the prospect of paying extra for preferential shipping times. With postage and shipping costs already making serious dents in their bottom lines, publishers need to be aware of the impacts the shortage could have on their businesses and customers.
What’s behind the shortage?
According to an American Trucking Association report, the trucking industry is responsible for hauling more than 70% of freight in the U.S. However, the industry will need to hire almost 900,000 more drivers to keep up with demand in the next 10 years.
Several factors are contributing to the shortage. One factor, ironically, is the booming economy. Buyers are spending more, and these goods require transportation. But, one of the biggest reasons behind the shortage is simple: Many drivers are retiring. Commercial drivers, on average, are 55 years old, and industry insiders are finding it difficult to replace them. The long hours and tough working conditions are not a big draw for younger workers, but wages for drivers are increasing. While higher pay may make the field more appealing to some, it would also likely drive up shipping costs.
The rough weather conditions this last fall and winter — including devastating hurricanes, cold, and snowstorms — have also contributed to the crisis. And new regulations that went into effect in December aren’t helping with pushes to hire more drivers. Truck drivers are now required to use electronic devices to keep digital rather than paper driving logs, which puts an extra burden on them.
Because it will be difficult to quickly replace drivers who are retiring, and driverless trucks are still a speck on the horizon, the trucking shortage will likely be a reality for the foreseeable future. While publishers might not be able to avoid higher shipping expenses, they may be able to cut costs in other areas. Co-mailing and technologies such as print-on-demand (POD), and digital or mobile editions may help streamline magazine publishers’ delivery processes and mitigate the impacts of the truck driver shortage.