The e-commerce industry has been consistently growing in the United States for the last two decades, and with that growth has come a wealth of new jobs from a wide range of employers. Amazon, Walmart, and many other retailers have been hiring like mad, and their people are mostly doing well financially. Meanwhile, there’s one tangentially related industry that hasn’t been so fortunate. According to the Washington Post, America is dealing with a massive shortage of truck drivers.
The Amazons of the world are shipping products all over the country in record numbers, but at least 50,000 more drivers are needed to meet the demand for all those speedy deliveries, per data reported by the American Trucking Association. Even when they increase wages and offer signing bonuses, managers at trucking companies are having a hard time filling those jobs.
It’s not hard to see why: the trucker’s lifestyle is a rough one. Many drivers are on the road so much that they rarely even get a chance to shower, much less enjoy a home-cooked meal and quality time with their families.
“It’s a hard life,” said Michael Dow, 48, a Dallas-based truck driver. “I don’t recommend it to anyone who has a family. My kids are in their 20s now. I missed most of their lives growing up. They tell me they wish I would have been home more. I have been divorced two times because of truck driving. For a real perspective, talk to a trucker’s wife.”
For many trucking companies, the hope is to retain employees by offering competitive wages, but there’s some unease about how good the money actually is. Some drivers told the Post that they can earn $100,000 in a year, but that’s only when you include bonuses that most people will realistically never earn. The median salary in the industry is only around $42,000. Drivers told the Post that raises are rare, and they’re usually barely enough to account for inflation.
The future of the e-commerce industry depends on having capable drivers to complete deliveries, but unfortunately, there’s no end in sight for the truck driver shortage. Finding people who are willing to dive into a trucking career is not easy.
“It takes a special kind of person,” said Donna Penland, a 50-year-old truck driver from Houston. “You basically give up your life for the job.”