The life of a truck driver is demanding, no matter what you’re hauling. When you add in hazardous and flammable material, the demands and risks go up considerably. Those that are up to the dangerous task of hauling fuel should be compensated appropriately. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case and there is an increasing gas truck driver shortage. Without the motivation of higher pay and great benefits, there is no appeal to gas truck drivers and this could become a serious problem for every industry.
What Is a Gas Truck Driver?
A gas truck driver is a truck driver who transports fuel to and from different places such as gas stations, fuel reservoirs, etc. Don’t be fooled, while still a truck driver, hauling flammable, hazardous material is far more invasive than simply driving a truck. Fuel tanker trucks are specialized vehicles that require skills for safe handling and there is a great risk that comes with being behind the wheel of one.
Is There a Shortage of Tanker Truck Drivers?
We’ve seen a decline in truck drivers for more than a decade now and it unfortunately only seems to be getting worse. In 2011, there was a shortage of about 9,000 truck drivers. That number has drastically increased to more than 80,000 in 2021. The pandemic slowed the need for this industry, but only for a short time. With the demand back up, unfortunately, training and apprenticeship programs seem slow to return. Without a proper introduction to the industry, there simply won’t be enough skilled gas truck drivers to replace the ones leaving each year.
Are Truckers Underpaid?
The average annual salary for a Class A CDL truck driver, which is required for gas truck drivers, is $57,000. Truck drivers used to be able to boast impressive earnings for their hard work and it seems this is becoming less and less likely each year. Where you drive, what you drive, how long you’ve driven, how much you drive, and other factors will affect how much you can earn while driving. Oftentimes, truck drivers won’t see pay for their wasted time. If they’re stuck in a traffic jam, inclement weather, construction zones, or unloading/loading, they may not get paid for their time even if they are forced to be on the road. Because many truck drivers are paid by the mile, this can also encourage unsafe driving by skipping sleep and breaks to make a delivery happen faster. Trucking companies can easily short drivers on mileage and benefits making it harder for them to earn what they deserve. So in short, yes, generally, truckers are underpaid and deserve a pay raise to reflect the hard work they continue to put in to keep things in operation.
Why Are Trucking Companies Resistant To Paying Drivers More?
Like most companies, trucking companies want to see the greatest gain possible. The less money they pay their drivers, the more they themselves can take home. Instead of paying by the mile, companies could switch and pay their drivers by the hour. This seems especially logical given the newer requirement for electronic logging devices or ELDs. While pay incentives like comprehensive benefits, etc. are desirable, higher base pay is what is needed to truly appeal to more drivers. A truck driver’s job is demanding and they deserve a wage that reflects that. With so many other industries paying their employees due to their skills, why should the trucking industry be any different?
Why Companies Are Struggling To Hire Tanker Drivers
With travel restrictions and so many turning to remote work, the pandemic forced a major loss of tanker truck driving jobs as there just wasn’t the demand. With the need for fuel ever-growing once again, the need for gas truck drivers is incredible. These drivers were laid off, but are now in need, companies are struggling to hire drivers back fast enough.
Hazardous and flammable materials are dangerous no matter the circumstance. Now, imagine driving around with what could potentially be a bomb in the back of your truck. Well, that’s what it’s like as a gas truck driver. These drivers are constantly dealing with a major risk and that’s why it takes a higher set of skills to drive fuel trucks. This specialized industry requires the best and they deserve pay that reflects that.
For decades, the trucking industry has heavily relied on males, generally 45 years and older, taking charge of the roads. One reason is simply due to experience. Driving a fuel truck requires skills and it takes time to acquire them. Younger drivers aren’t hired into tanker hauling as often, but that could be because of the age minimum for a commercial driver’s license as well. You must be at least 21 years old to become a commercial truck driver. This means that after graduating high school, those who may be interested in becoming a truck driver will lose out on that opportunity for another several years. They’re unlikely to wait around for it, leaving them to find a different trade or industry for employment.
If the industry worked to appeal more to a younger audience, women, minorities, or veterans, they could quite likely reach an audience with interest that they haven’t targeted before. A small percentage of truck drivers are women, but the trucking opportunities are available for them.
The lifestyle of a trucker can certainly be demanding. With long hours on the road away from home, sleep deprivation can be a common issue. Even veteran truckers may be looking for a change in lifestyle to provide more freedom and sleep. Thankfully, with LTL or Less-Than-Truckload shipping becoming more common, localized routes are increasing. This is because there are more distribution centers popping up all across the country making it easier to keep your trips close to home. Trucking companies are able to stray away from the traditional trucker lifestyle and this could be a major appeal for those looking to be on the road while also being able to make it home every night.
Seeking Better Opportunities
Finding truck drivers isn’t the only issue with the gas truck driver shortage. Retaining skilled gas truck drivers is becoming harder and harder as they leave to seek better opportunities. Whether it be a company that offers superior benefits, greater pay, maintained vehicles, you name it, a better opportunity may always be calling. These drivers have a unique skill set and will look to go where they are valued.
In a world where it seems the cost of living is constantly rising, low pay is simply not an option for most. Low pay will deter almost anyone that could be interested in driving a truck and there may be no getting them back. Many trucking companies pay per mile which can be incredibly unmotivating for gas truck drivers with their specialized skills. An inexperienced driver holding a Class A CDL may only see an average annual salary of $38,000 – $45,000. A more experienced driver may bring home an annual salary of around $57,000. For a demanding job on the road, away from home, that isn’t exactly desirable.
Poor Working Conditions
Because the trucking industry hasn’t been considered a trade or been seen for the necessity it is, there is unfortunately a lack of respect seen with it. The truckers work long hours to keep stores supplied and what they do goes far too unrecognized. Truck drivers are exposed to long hours on the road which is strenuous on the body in many ways. Overstretching your bladder and under stretching your body is not a healthy way to live and it’s becoming less desirable to many. The tough working conditions truckers face can be hard to make appealing, especially without the proper incentives.
While technology advancement has brought us wondrous things, autonomous trucks may also greatly threaten the jobs of gas truck drivers. With an unknown future, many may shy away from a career in the trucking industry at all.
What Can Be Done To Help Solve the Driver Shortage?
Solving the gas truck driver shortage can’t be done overnight, but there are several potential solutions that can help encourage growth.
Pay Drivers for High-Level Skills
Commercial trucking can be dangerous. Add flammable or hazardous materials and you’ve multiplied the risks. Tanker truck driving is a dangerous job and the drivers should have pay that rewards them for their skills. When the pay compensates appropriately for the demands of the job, it’s far more likely to be appealing to the highly skilled drivers needed.
Offer Fair Wages
Offering fair wages is a must to encourage more drivers to turn to tanker trucking. Without fair pay, there is no motivation for qualified drivers to apply. Pay increases, more comprehensive and affordable benefits packages, and retirement/tuition reimbursement plans are all ways that companies are working to improve their driver’s wages as well as appeal to new applicants.
Make the Job More Appealing
Reducing the demands of driving a truck will help people see it as more of a desirable job. While driving a truck will always mean more time on the road, it doesn’t always have to mean more time away from home. Many companies are working to make the job of a truck driver more appealing and increasing time at home is one way they’re aiming to do that. With less time on the road and more time at home, driving a truck is less intimidating than it used to be.
Local trucking is becoming more common and is a great way to help increase your driver pool. There is also, of course, the constant innovation in trucking technology, autonomous trucking solutions help ease the daily burdens trucking can bring. Offer training programs to ensure drivers are always up to date without making it a hassle. The more ways you can find to reward drivers, the more you’ll be able to appeal to them.
Consistent, reliable payment is of course, always a great way to appeal to new drivers. There are trusted solutions, like AtoB instant payroll, allowing drivers can get paid immediately without your company’s cash flow being affected. With easy, instant payroll, your drivers can be paid with just one click. This may seem like a simple and obvious option, but when you can ensure your drivers will earn what they deserve when they need it, that’s a guarantee not all companies can offer.
Increasing Freight Rates
With the constant rise of prices, including fuel, increasing freight rates may be necessary to ensure your drivers can continually be paid as they should. Offering drivers competitive pay is one of the main ways to appeal to the qualified drivers you need. Increasing freight rates may be a solution to ensure you can continue to pay them the wages they deserve and require.
Make Truck Driving a Recognized Trade
Jobs in the trades are in higher demand than ever. If the trucking industry gained more recognition for their necessity in people’s lives, they would likely be seen for the skills they deliver on. Trucking is critical for our country and the government should give more praise where it’s deserved. Those in the trucking industry are an absolute necessity and deserve fair wages, benefits, and more. If people saw truck drivers as necessary as plumbers or electricians, they’d have competitive pay rates in no time. Without truck drivers, gas stations would be dry, grocery store shelves would sit empty, and mail would go nowhere. Trucking matters and it needs to be noticed.
Want More Drivers? Let the Wages Reflect the Job’s Demands
There is no missing the fact that hauling fuel, a hazardous and flammable item is highly dangerous. Those that put themselves at risk to transport this necessity deserve to be compensated appropriately. If trucking companies are truly looking to alleviate the gas truck driver shortage, then they need to increase the base pay for gas truck drivers. The job is demanding with long hours in a dangerous work environment. Allow them to earn what they deserve and maybe they’ll start to see the benefits of being a truck driver once again.