The shortage is striking. The American Trucking Association estimates the U.S. needs 30,000 truck drivers right now, and as many as 239,000 by 2022. At least 100,000 new truckers will need to be added every year for the next decade.
Trucking used to be a solid job, but, like many industries, it has been slow to recover from the 2008 recession. Trucking companies large and small lost the ability to borrow money, which stifled growth and caused many drivers to go home and never come back. The ones still on the road jump from company to company, but their numbers are dwindling as businesses struggle to replace retiring drivers.
Why are young people -- who have also greatly struggled in the years since the recession -- avoiding these jobs? Lousy hours and pay, mostly. Truckers often spend weeks on the road away from family and friends. Plus, drivers are now subject to stricter federal regulations, which restrict the hours truckers can drive and, in turn, cause paychecks to shrink.
It is also dangerous. In 2012, truck occupant fatalities rose 8.9 percent, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics. It was the third consecutive year that fatalities increased.
Trucking is too important an industry to the American economy to suffer from manpower shortage for too long, however. As a result, wages, benefits and working conditions are already on the rise.