Truck driver shortage could have major impacts on supply chain

Business

BEEBE, Ark. — The trucking industry has been short of truck drivers for years, but within the last year things have gotten worse. 

With the shortage of drivers, officials said it means it’s a struggle to transport products across the state and could also lead to an increase in product prices.

The Stallion Trucking Group said they have 14 empty trucks which isn’t usual for them.

“I like this because when you’re going down the road, as long as you make your deliveries and pick-ups on time there’s not really a lot of stress as far as driving,” truck driver, Greg Kelly said.

Greg Kelly showed what it’s like for him on a normal day. 

“I’ve been with Stallion for 10 years,” Kelly said.

He is one of the many still working and said he loves his job. Lately, the trucking industry has seen a shortage due to there being too many openings across the nation and here in the natural state. 

Kelly said he’s seen the shortage first hand.

“Truck drivers and would-be truck drivers have their pick of potential jobs and opportunities to peruse,” President of Arkansas Trucking Association, Shannon Newton said, “So we’re certainly feeling the negative impacts of that, exacerbating the shortage in this labor market.”

Newton said 87 percent of Arkansas communities rely on trucks to deliver products and even export them out.

“We say that truck driving is a lot like the electricity, the connector that gets goods from where they are to where you want them to be,” Newton said. “So as consumers we rely on trucking to get food to the grocery store or medicine to the pharmacy or a package to our front steps.”

Meanwhile Kelly said he doesn’t think some people realize how important truck drivers are.

“I just wish people would realize if it wasn’t for truck drivers you wouldn’t have anything,” Kelly said. “I mean we are responsible for your food, clothing, pretty much everything.”

Kelly explains why he believes there’s not as many drivers now.

“One is, the highways are so much more populated now with vehicles and a lot of the four-wheelers out there just zipping in and out big trucks,” Kelly said. “So many are retiring now and it’s just enough to replenish what’s going out. Then the rest areas and truck stops, if you don’t in there pretty quick you’re just not going to get a parking spot and it’s not getting any easier.”

Kelly said he was exposed to the industry because his father and brothers were drivers too. He wasn’t originally working in the industry but his first job became too stressful. He said not everyone knows about the trucking industry and the opportunities.

Meanwhile, companies and the trucking association hope to recruit more people soon.

“We’ve been looking at ways to make the job more attractive. We’ve seen an increase in wages,” Newton said.

Another disadvantage, Newton noted is drivers have to be 21-year-old. Now they are hoping that the Driver Safe Act will be passed, she said it would allow an 18-year-old to do training in order to be a professional truck driver.

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