"If we (don't) work on that side of the equation, it's going to be a little like filling a leaky bucket because we see far too many people leaving their jobs as drivers every single year, about 300,000 by our department's estimates," Buttigieg said. "So, yes, we need to recruit and we need to retain. And that is why we focus on things that affect job quality—whether we are talking about compensation or whether we are talking about issues like parking—all of that goes to whether we are able to retain as well as recruit the work force that we absolutely will be counting on."
The truck driver shortage, Srinivasan said, is staggering, especially for an industry trying to keep pace with demand as supply chain bottlenecks—at the ports, especially—persist.
Back-ups at the ports have drivers waiting hours for cargo, adding strain to the industry and stress to the drivers. That wait, Srinivasan said, not only is taxing physically for drivers, it's likely impacting their pay.
"Drivers are waiting hours to get in and get out" at ports, Srinivasan said. "I'm not sure that they are paid to wait, but my guess is if they are, they are paid more if they are on the road. But it's not fun. Even if I am given whatever money I am given to be told 'go and sit in this traffic for hours on end' it is not fun."
Srinivasan also is watching to see to how infrastructure investments will impact trucking's labor pool. While it's true the investments could be a boon for the trucking industry—better roadways and upgraded technology that allow for fleet monitoring and automated driving could have positive impacts. Still, Srinivasan wonders if the uptick in construction jobs will pull from the trucking industry.
Traditionally, he said, the two markets have competed for labor, and many truckers may choose to leave the stresses of trucking behind for similarly paying construction positions that could allow them to stay home.
"It is a bigger thing that is coming through," Srinivasan said, "and I think we need to recognize that truck drivers are a bigger part of the whole big picture."
Audrey LaForest, Automotive News reporter, contributed to this report.