AUSTIN, TEXAS — Trucking’s driver shortage has dropped to 60,000 or less, the American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello said during the 2023 Management Conference & Exhibition Monday.
“But these are just sort of cyclical trends,” Costello told executives in an Austin Convention Center ballroom. “The underlying problems of the driver market have not gone away.”
Typically a central component of Costello’s economic outlook at the conference, the driver shortage didn’t come up Monday until a question-and-answer session at the end. But the issue is an international problem, the ATA chief economist said, and while the labor market has gotten easier for carriers, it’s still “not easy,” he said.
“It is still difficult to find qualified drivers,” Costello said.
Tens of thousands of LTL drivers flooded into the employment market as Yellow Corp. filed for bankruptcy this summer. The onetime third-largest LTL carrier employed 30,000 workers — about 22,000 of them International Brotherhood of Teamsters members.
Yellow’s bankruptcy contributed to a sequential loss of 30,800 general long-distance truck drivers in August on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, according to a Goldman Sachs Equity Research note last week.
The month-to-month drop, which defied an average pre-pandemic sequential August increase of 2,500, was “most likely from the loss of [Yellow] drivers,” the note said. But outside of LTL, Goldman Sachs noted, “employment remains elevated,” where TL driver levels remained nearly 5% above 2019 highs.