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Truck driver shortage: ‘I’ve never quite seen it this bad' in 30 years, analyst says

·3 min read

Supply chain woes continue to paint an increasingly bleak the picture for the trucking industry, said Jason Seidl, Cowen managing director of industrials — airfreight and surface transportation.

Finding workers to drive trucks has increasingly been an issue in the industry, according to Seidl. “Clearly, we've had some problems hiring truckers lately,” he said in a segment with Yahoo Finance Live on Wednesday. “I've been around the trucking industry almost 30 years, and I've never quite seen it this bad.”

A labor shortage beginning early 2021 has stretched across multiple industries across the nation, but the trucking industry in particular has sustained some nasty blows to its labor force. According to the American Truckers Association, the US currently faces an all-time high shortage of 80,000 truckers.

An infrastructure bill signed into law by President Biden attempts to alleviate some of these concerns for the trucking industry and transportation services in general. The $1.2 trillion law includes provisions for roads and bridges amounting to $110 billion as well as $17 billion for ports.

“Our baseline view right now is things get a little bit better in December, then we get tight again in January,” Seidl said. “We start probably clearing up around 2Q and into the back half of the year. Look, we have an infrastructure bill that is signed into law … That's going to help. But that's not going to really get us any near-term help.”

GARDEN CITY, GA - NOVEMBER 12: A jockey truck driver navigates through the Garden City Port Terminal on November 12, 2021 in Garden City, Georgia. The terminal recently completed construction of the Mason Mega Rail Station, doubling the Port of Savannahs rail lift capacity to one million containers per year. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
GARDEN CITY, GA - NOVEMBER 12: A jockey truck driver navigates through the Garden City Port Terminal on November 12, 2021 in Garden City, Georgia. The terminal recently completed construction of the Mason Mega Rail Station, doubling the Port of Savannahs rail lift capacity to one million containers per year. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Disruption issues are embedded deeply within the supply chain, Seidl added. “It goes beyond just a handful of large retailers, right?” he said. “So it goes to the port truckers, it goes to the warehousing operations, it goes to the railroads. This is an entire supply chain. And so, these are all links of the chain.”

Seasonal variances may help right the metaphorical ship for ports-based infrastructure, Seidl said, as reduced traffic in the winter months may ease supply-demand imbalances. “If you look at right now, yeah, things are bad now, but the calendar is going to be our friend with seasonality,” he noted. “Typically, post-Thanksgiving the ports get a lot slower. I think we're going to get about a month to clean up.”

That issues exist in the trucking industry which have negatively impacted production is virtually uncontested; however, the notion of a "truck driver shortage: has been subject to controversy lately, as truckers have begun to speak up about other production issues to blame.

Port truckers in California were recently featured in a Freightwaves (an analytics and intelligence company focused on the freight community) news report after port congestion reached unbearable levels. Transportation company executives discussed equipment shortages, issues with automation, and slow management as other factors of high congestion and wait times.

Others have criticized the idea that there aren’t enough drivers available; rather, the conditions in the industry don't adequately meet potential employee needs. Wages are often lower than truckers anticipated, and conditions in the industry are “terrible,” a recent report from Time Magazine noted. Drivers often face long wait times due to congestion resulting from ports which have inadequate space. Other factors identified included the deregulation of the trucking industry in recent years as well as the high debt associated with acquiring trucking licenses and training.

Ihsaan Fanusie is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @IFanusie.

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