Heartland Express CEO Mike Gerdin made the prediction in an Oct. 14 press release. He says: "Freight demand has continued to be strong and has reached unprecedented levels throughout the third quarter of 2021. We expect these trends to continue for the remainder of 2021 and well into 2022."
Gerdin says that labor issues will remain a challenge throughout the trucking industry. "We also believe that hiring and retention of employees have reached levels of unprecedented challenge across our industry for both carriers and shippers." He adds that the "shared challenge" of hiring and keeping truck drivers and other employees with key roles in the supply chain will continue into 2022.
The press release notes that Heartland Express has stepped up to the challenge of labor shortages. "We have increased wages and enhanced the compensation features for our drivers multiple times in the last 12 months," the company says.
It adds that Heartland Express "will continue to invest in our drivers, our fleet of revenue equipment, our terminal locations and technology to ensure our drivers receive a rewarding level of compensation – along with the tools to have a safe and successful career."
Compensation has been the foremost reason as to why truck drivers have left the industry in droves. Fox Business reported in May 2021 that the demand for truck drivers dwindled due to Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdowns. Unemployment benefits and stimulus checks have also discouraged drivers from getting back behind the steering wheel.
American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear said in May that the trucking industry was having trouble recruiting younger drivers. "We have to make a very concerted effort over the next five to ten years to really fill those gaps if we're going to maintain pace with the economy," he said at the time. (Related: Trucking industry hit by gas shortages, skyrocketing prices; truckers struggle to deliver consumer goods across America.)
Some companies are trying to source truck drivers from other countries. However, recruiting from other countries comes with its own set of problems.
Holly McCormick, a recruiter for Oklahoma-based Groendyke Transport, shares her experiences in recruiting foreign truck drivers to address the shortage.
McCormick says she had to coordinate with an agency in South Africa for the first time in her 10-year career in the industry. Even though the company has doubled her budget since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sourcing process remains difficult. "If we're not able to haul these goods, our economy virtually shuts down," McCormick says.
Jose Gomez-Urquiza, CEO of international recruiting firm Visa Solutions, also voices out the difficulties of hiring foreigners to drive trucks. Visa Solutions has handled immigration concerns for clients in the transportation industry – resulting in a more-than-double increase of demand for his services since before the pandemic.
Gomez-Urquiza attributes the increase in demand to the lack of drivers. "We're living through the worst driver shortage that we've seen in recent history by far," he says.
Petroleum Marketing Group (PMG) Vice President of Operations Andre LeBlanc laments both the current shortage of drivers and delays in processing immigration papers. Of the 24 drivers he has tried to hire via a federal immigration program, only three have passed through all the steps of the verification program.
"We've got 21 drivers right now who are qualified to come to this country the right way and are ready to come here and solve this problem. We can't seem to get an answer on what we need to do to move that forward," LeBlanc says. (Related: Shortage of truck drivers in the US forces companies to look overseas.)
Collapse.news has more articles about the shortage of truckers and its negative repercussions on the supply chain.