While some people focus on whether automation will kill long-haul trucking jobs over the long-term, Walmart is currently more concerned with its short-term reality. The company is once again raising truck driver salaries to try to correct for an ongoing shortage of drivers. (WMT) Walmart needs to hire at least 900 drivers this year, according to the Dallas Morning News.
One reason: trucking tonnage is way up. The American Trucking Association, the industry’s largest trade association, says that tonnage hauled annually is up 6% is up even while the industry continues to suffer from nearly 50,000 unfilled long-haul jobs. The ATA’s chief economist Bob Costello notes that in 2018, truck tonnage hit its highest peak in 20 years.
While the median salary for truckers increased 15% from 2013 to 2017, that hasn’t kept pace with the demand for drivers clocking more miles. In 2018, the truck driver shortage made it impossible to offset the combination of a strengthening economy and an aging pool of experienced truck drivers. The older generation of long-haulers is simply not being replaced by younger drivers, and there are simply too few qualified drivers to fill all of the jobs.
Longterm, this kind of disparity can slow the economy if goods aren’t shipped on time. Trucking continues to be the backbone of the U.S. economy, but without enough drivers, shipping rates will continue to go up as one way to compensate for rising transportation costs. And that means consumers will continue to see retail prices climb as well.