Trucking industry needs more drivers, not fewer

Trucking firm New England Freight recently announced it will be liquidating operations and laying off 233 employees in Maryland (“Trucking firm closes and lays off 233 in Maryland, including 59 in Baltimore,” March 5). No one wants to see any company close or employees lose their jobs. It is a very stressful experience for everyone involved.

But, as a traffic and transportation planner based in Baltimore, I thought it was helpful to provide some background on the issue. The good news is that these workers may not be out of a job all that long. Here in our own backyard, there is a tremendous amount of current and future trucking activity occurring. For starters, there is the redevelopment of Sparrows Point, now known as Tradepoint Atlantic. It is a 15 million square-foot development situated on 3,100 acres and poised to become one of the largest global logistics hubs in the U.S.

The 5 million square-foot development of Principio Business Park in Cecil County is another major facility that will bring opportunities while the Seagirt Marine Terminal and Dundalk Terminal are both exploding. Couple the opportunities these facilities do and will provide for trucking industry residents in and around Baltimore with the trucking industry’s shortage of 40,000 to 60,000 drivers — which is expected to climb to 175,000 by 2024 — and you have a plentiful supply of jobs.

In fact, when examining the stats today, online retailing shows no signs of slowing down. And with trucks transporting 71 percent of all freight moved in the U.S representing more than 10 billion tons of goods annually requires more than 3.5 million truck drivers, according to the American Trucking Association. Like online retail purchases, the shortage of truck drivers is only expected to increase. Age is the biggest reason for this shortage: the number of younger drivers in the trucking industry has been on the decline. Between 2006-2011, drivers between 25 and 34 dropped from 18 percent to under 15 percent. To top it off, the average age of a truck driver is now 55.

The shortage is forcing salaries to jump as well. Some companies, like Walmart, are paying their drivers extremely well. Walmart driver’s salary ranges from nearly $50,000 to over $100,000 in some cases, according to Glassdoor. While technology will have to play a role in the future of trucking, I am hopeful that those who have been laid off will be able to find stable, well-paying employment quickly.

Wes Guckert, White Marsh

The writer is president and CEO of The Traffic Group, a traffic engineering firm.

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