It was somewhat surprising to see truck driver shortages featured on the front page of the business section of the USA Today on September 9. The full article can be accessed through this link USA Today. The article points out that despite a less than robust economic recovery and nearly 10% unemployment there are already shortages of trucking capacity that are driving up freight prices and causing missed deliveries. The article also points to a 4% increase in contract rates and as much as a 40% increase in spot rates in 2010. I agree that there has been some pressure on TL rates this year, but we are typically not seeing 4% increases in professionally managed transportation procurement events. On the other hand, we are definitely seeing requests for much more than 4% increases when transportation rates are negotiated the old-fashioned way; one carrier at a time. Spot rates have increased this year, and in some areas of the country there are double digit increases, but 40% seems a little extreme, unless it is a last minute situation. Overall I think the author jumps the gun in saying the sky is falling at this time.
The article does correctly point out that when the economy recovers and new regulations come into effect the TL capacity shortage will be severe. The dark clouds on the horizon include CSA 2010, which many estimate will take 5-10% of the capacity off the road, hours of service reductions, electronic on-board recorder mandates, and speed limit reductions. Despite the tremendous safety record of the trucking industry, the federal government just can’t resist the urge to appear to do something useful without any regard to the economic cost of their actions.