There are around 2 million professional heavy-truck and tractor-trailer drivers in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The ATA said the trucking industry was short 80,000 drivers in 2021. For comparison, the driver shortage was around 60,000 in 2018. The ATA said the number is trending to 160,000 unfilled positions by 2030.
Brad Ball, president of Roadmaster Drivers School, said while the numbers look bleak, he is optimistic because the position has evolved to attract a much larger applicant pool.
St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Roadmaster Drivers School operates 20 training locations nationwide. In March, the company acquired JTL Truck Driver Training in Omaha, Neb.
"Gone are the days of the lone wolf driver. Trucking now is a high-tech, high-paying profession that is attracting people from all walks of life," he said.
Ball said there has been a resurgence of drivers in the last year.
"There is no gender wage gap in trucking as drivers are paid by the mile," he said. "Trucking is an attractive solution to unemployment and under-employment. There are people with college degrees leaving the rat race to become truck drivers."
Spear said last year the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would include appropriations to address the shortage.
"The bill will invest in our future workforce as well. Training younger talent how to safely and responsibly operate a Class 8 across state lines — ATA's Drive Safe Act policy," he said. "The bill establishes a Women in Trucking Advisory Board at the FMCSA, and it funds a DOT advertisement campaign to promote the trucking profession."