Today's economy appears to be on a steady growth pattern, and that will have implications on the trucking industry. There are improvements in certain sectors of the economy that are having positive effects on freight volumes. When we have growth in areas like technology it doesn't necessarily translate into truckloads, but when we see some movement in areas like manufacturing and construction it definitely has a positive effect on the transportation industry and that will translate into an increase in truck driver demand.
We are seeing those things happening right now. The nation's freight volume is reaching a tipping point of being heavier than the freight capacity of it's carriers. Any sort of economic pressure like this that is moving in a positive direction does good things for our industry. All indicators are pointing to some positive forces in the world of trucking which does multiple things for the industry.
There are other things that we could mention, but those are the main factors that I want to focus on so that we can put together a discussion of just exactly what it means when truck driver demand is on the rise.
The trucking industry is a strange beast. In times of economic turmoil you will see a lot of people turn to trucking for a job. I know during the economic struggles of the last decade we saw a lot of people who couldn't find work turning to the trucking industry for jobs.
See 2.6 Million Job Losses in 2008: It's Time To Turn To Truck Driving
I can't even keep track of how many former IT people we had in our forum looking to change their careers during that time. We've also seen a lot of former Law Enforcement people who turned to trucking when they got fed up with the things going on in their careers. There were plenty of other industries represented in our forum during those times also.
There is an almost constant demand for truck drivers in this business. Trucking has salvaged many a family's headlong plunge into financial disaster just because the trucking industry could provide a job during difficult economic times. People always need to eat, and we are still a large and diverse society that consumes all sorts of goods that trucks deliver to us. I know I stayed very busy as a driver even during some of those years when our overall economy was not looking too good.
Now we are in a little different economic atmosphere, and there is an increasing demand for drivers, but with a decreasing amount of people who are willing to turn to the trucking industry for work. Over the last ten years or so many of the people who just couldn't find work were going into trucking because trucking companies were hiring. Now we have the added stress on the employment markets of demand in several different sectors. All of a sudden jobs are available and people may not be as willing to make the sacrifices that the trucking industry requires of it's drivers. All of these things are slow moving forces and we will have to see how they all play out, but for the most part they should have positive effects on our jobs as professional drivers.
All of this plays right into the hands of those who are pushing the whole autonomous vehicle thing, but as far as I can see into the future, theirs is mostly a push for funding for research and development at this point. Self-driving trucks are not coming anytime soon. They are not making money off of actually accomplishing anything, but rather making money by causing it to appear as though they have the potential to accomplish something.
That potential, though perhaps viable, is a long way from affecting your jobs or your future. Their efforts are mostly marketing and hype at this point, and it has had zero effects on driver demand. The only effect I have seen is some irrational anxiety on the part of some drivers who think self driving trucks are taking over any day now. I don't see it happening, and you can bet that our litigious society is gearing up for a huge battle over who is going to bear the liability of an 80,000 pound truck without a human being at the controls.
Remember this: Autonomous does not necessarily mean driver-less.
Those are two different things that a lot of people are getting confused. I am not holding my breath for this all to settle out anytime soon. In the meantime the companies pushing autonomous technology can make money and not have to accomplish any actual work with their ideas, and personally it seems to me that this is where the whole push has been anyway. When the actual rubber hits the road, as they say, fantasy will give way to reality, and your jobs will still be intact, and the driver may become even more critical.
And, yes I have seen the recent blurbs in the news about actual autonomous trucks making deliveries. It is still a lot of hype and marketing, and there are still drivers on board. Sometimes I have seen reports where two or three persons were on board! Now that is really going to cut down on labor costs isn't it? Remember, we have yet to see the first big lawsuit happen, and trust me there are some crafty lawyers who are just salivating over this whole situation.
Recently a Self-driving Uber car killed an Arizona woman crossing the street. It's an incredibly sad situation and shows just how far we are from self-driving vehicles being viable.
So, when driver demand is on the rise, we need to understand what it is that these trucking companies are looking for. If we want to get in on the ride during a time of positive things happening for drivers then we need to know just what it is that gives a driver that special edge in the employment process. What is it that makes a driver desirable? What is it that keeps a driver in the driver's seat of his career? What can we do to put ourselves in a positive light when the recruiters are looking for someone to take the helm of one of those fine land yachts they have available? Well, some things never change. Let's look at this and see what you can do to land your best trucking job ever.
Did you know you can fill out one quick form here on TruckingTruth and apply to several companies at once for paid CDL training? Seriously! The application only takes one minute. You will speak with recruiters today. There is no obligation whatsoever. Learn more and apply here:
If you are new to the trucking industry then you will have to go through the standard drill. You either need to get your CDL through a private truck driving school that can provide you with a 160 hour training certificate, or make your way successfully through a Paid CDL Training Program where you will commit to a certain time period of working for the company who trained you.
See Paid CDL Training Versus Private CDL Training
Both of these are acceptable ways to go about this process, and it really depends on your personal needs and/or desires. Of course the private route will cost you quite a bit of money up front, yet gives you no real advantages over paid CDL training which will cost you some commitment of your time. Either way will work well, and we have a lot of resources here at Trucking Truth to help you choose the right truck driving school.
See Why I Prefer Paid CDL Training Over Private CDL Training by Brett Aquila
One of the things that takes place in the trucking industry is what some have termed as the cannibalization of drivers. I'm sure you have heard the term “driver churn.” This is a phenomenon that is driven by many things, but an increase in driver demand can affect it also. This phenomenon is simply drivers moving from one trucking company to another, and it is often accompanied by a slight increase in the Cents Per Mile (cpm) rate of pay to the driver.
When you see these astronomical numbers of driver turnover in the trucking business, this problem accounts for much of it. The numbers don't necessarily represent the number of drivers who have left the industry, but rather the number of people who have merely changed jobs in the past year. Seriously, there are a lot of drivers who are constantly moving around because they can't seem to find any company that can make them happy about their career. These types become really hyper motivated during times of strong driver demand.
The drivers that I think will benefit the most from the stabilizing effects of economic improvements in our industry are the really solid drivers who have stood the test of time and proven themselves capable of getting the job done on a regular basis. Those drivers who have proven themselves to be productive and effective will find themselves in the driver's seat when it comes to having the best jobs available. This has always been my approach to this job.
See What It Takes To Be A Top Tier Driver
A good solid driver will find that he is in demand. I'm not necessarily referring to the fact that you may be able to move to another carrier and get a nice fat pay raise, but that is a possibility. I'm talking about keeping yourself in a position of demand where you are now. That has always been the way to make money at this career. Being hyper-productive and safe at the same time are key elements to driver success.
I certainly don't recommend that people make a move to a different company for a two or three cents per mile pay increase. If you are going to give up a good solid position where you are treated well and given all kinds of perks and miles, then it would be a foolish move on your part to leave for a few more cents per mile at another carrier. You are going to have to prove yourself all over again and compete with a new group of drivers for freight. You will more than likely set yourself back in terms of your earnings potential for a good couple of years in my opinion.
See Trucking Is A Competition Between Drivers. Can You Hang With The Big Dogs?
If you've been keeping yourself at the top of the food chain at your present job, there are people at your company who have noticed. You may not even know who they are, but trust me, word gets around at these trucking companies. We're already seeing some carriers making adjustments to their pay rates. We have had drivers from several different companies reporting across the board pay increases in their fleets.
Proving yourself to be a Top Tier Driver is what I feel should be your goal if you want to make top pay in this industry. If you have already blown that opportunity then you may have to settle for moving to another carrier making a few paltry more cents per mile, and take your chances on whether or not you will be given the opportunity run some decent miles.
The type of driver who is getting really good solid treatment right now is going to be missed greatly if they move on. Those are the drivers who will be getting some attention from their employers in the very near future.
I have already noticed the winds of change blowing about at my present employer. They are having all kinds of meetings and they're working on improving things at the company based on input from the current drivers they would like to keep on board.
The drivers who are going to really benefit from the current economic rumblings are the ones who have already built a good solid reputation.
They are going to find that the company they work for is counting on them heavily. That means more good solid runs. That means an uptick in the miles and the pay rate. That means they will be counted on to keep current customers satisfied so they won't look elsewhere while scrambling for the best service during times of high demand.
These are great times for great drivers. I hope you have built for yourself a good solid reputation, because it is about to come into play for your benefit. Always consider the options available to you at other companies, but keep in mind that sometimes what appears to be greener grass may be deceiving. I believe maintaining a good solid job at the company where you are already well established is going to pay off in a big way over the next few years.