Can The Truck Driver Shortage be Resolved With Teenagers?

Nancy Anderson
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As the economy picks up in mid-2018 with unemployment at low levels, every industry is feeling a pinch in staffing. The transportation industry faces a dilemma with a truck driver shortage. The average age of a semi-truck driver is only 10 years short of retirement age, yet trucking companies need more drivers as soon as possible. Teenage workers offer one solution proposed by the industry.


In 2016, the truck driver shortage was around 36,000. in 2018, that number grew to 50,000. With many people retiring and leaving the workforce altogether, the transportation industry needs to fix things sooner rather than later. One proposal in Congress is to lower the legal driving age for semi-trucks on interstate highways from 21 to 18. Safety advocates and current truck drivers disagree that lowering the age to drive is a viable option. They believe younger drivers pose a risk of having more accidents on highways.

Why Younger Drivers?

Teenage workers are critical to getting new drivers, says Andrew Lynch, president of Zipline Logistics. Landing workers straight out of high school gives them a high-paying job right away after just a few weeks of training and licensing. The energy industry, such as workers to have high-paying jobs on fracking crews or oil rigs, don't have a minimum age requirement. As soon as someone graduates high school, that person can work on a fracking crew at age 18. That's one reason why the industry advocacy group is lobbying Congress to support the DRIVE-Safe Act. Because the federal government regulates interstate commerce and interstate transportation, Congress needs to pass laws that change the driving age for semi-trucks.

Younger workers also tend to earn less money because they are in an entry-level position. Logistics companies favor younger employees to solve the truck driver shortage because it costs less than re-hiring older, more experienced drivers. As teenagers work their way up the company ladder by gaining more experience, they can earn more money and promotions.

Keep Older Drivers with More Money

Current truck drivers argue younger workers aren't the answer to the problem. Young drivers get into more accidents in general, and that doesn't change with a 40-ton vehicle, even with advanced training. Instead, drivers feel the truck driver shortage isn't really a shortage, but instead it's a turnover rate problem. To keep drivers from leaving the industry, trucking companies need to increase wages. The average salary of a truck driver in 2018 is about half of what it was in the 1970s. Getting the pay back can keep drivers.

Another solution for the truck driver shortage is self-driving trucks. Volvo, Volkswagen and Daimler are all working on a self-driving fleet of trucks. If this is a viable option, drivers only need to be in the truck to take over for an emergency rather than physically driving the vehicle. This innovation is several years off, if it even comes to pass. Increasing driver pay or investing in self-driving vehicles involves a sharp increase in investment from logistics companies, either way.

The truck driver shortage needs more workers to jumpstart a changing logistics industry. Do you feel as if the trucking industry needs younger drivers, or should companies increase wages until companies find a solution?

Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart at


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  • Richard W.
    Richard W.

    Being a former professional driver of over 27 years, the industry has a shortage of PROFESSIONAL drivers. Teenagers aren't the answer due to the fact that the human brain isn't fully developed until age 24 and in some cases, much later. A teenager would not be able to do the job as a whole professionally. There is more to operating a commercial vehicle than just driving. And based on the current crop of teenagers coming out of high school, they would not be able to handle the mental aspects of being a truck driver. There are no "safe spaces" on the road. Besides, my years driving in the mountains of all the 11 western states and the traffic in places like Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas in a vehicle much larger, longer, and heavier than an automobile, I doubt very seriously a teenager can handle both the truck and the situations.

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