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And now this compression point is sending waves of pain through the supply chain from distributors and wholesalers to retailers and consumers in the form of fast-rising shipping costs. Even Amazon and its Prime members are feeling the pinch.
This predicament was a long time coming. An aging driver population that continues to dwindle owing to retirement — combined with a lack of younger workers coming into the industry — is a problem that has been festering for 15 years. The Great Recession and the years of recovery that followed largely masked the problem. But by 2012, with the U.S. economy strengthening, fissures began to show.
Trucks moved more than 70 percent of all U.S. freight and generated $719bn in revenue in 2017, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
“We could see the demographics, and now they’re finally hitting home,” says Brian Fielkow, president and CEO of Jetco Delivery, a trucking and logistics company based in Houston. “This isn’t something we just woke up to.”
The pain point is specific. The industry calls them “full-truckload, over-the-road nonlocal drivers,” jargon for drivers who haul goods over long distances, often days, if not weeks, before returning home. That lifestyle just isn’t attracting millennials and the incoming Gen Z cohort who place a greater emphasis on work/life balance.
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