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Driver Shortage? It’s Worst At The Big Carriers

DeAnna Swinton
Published on February 22, 2016

There’s a driver shortage, right? Maybe yes. Maybe no. It depends on who you ask.

The fact is, since early 2012, the number of for-hire drivers has increased by 409,286, representing a 21% increase, and bringing the total number of drivers to 2,354,547. This is a huge story that nobody’s talking or writing about.

Ask the largest carriers if there’s a driver shortage ─most will say “absolutely.”  And they’re right, from a certain limited point of view. The biggest carriers have a very hard time filling seats and keeping them filled. So yes, there’s a driver shortage if you’re a large carrier. No doubt.

Ask the largest shippers if there’s a driver shortage. Most will say “yes.”  And they’re right, too. The biggest shippers often deal with the biggest carriers, keeping a number of the nation’s largest 100 carriers on speed dial. So by definition, the biggest shippers, because they make heavy use of the biggest carriers, have a driver shortage.

So where are the 409,000+ new drivers? Since 2012, they’ve largely supercharged growth in the micro-, small and mid-sized fleets. For example, the number of micro-fleets (1-6 trucks) increased by 42%; the number of small fleets (7-9 trucks) increased by 29%; mid-size (20-100 trucks) increased by 22%. While during that time the number of larger fleets (101-500) grew 14% and the largest (501+) grew by 10%. Every fleet size grew since 2012, but the clear winners of the driver war are the smaller and mid-size fleets.

The takeaway: align yourself with smaller and mid-size fleets, and brokers who specialize in the thriving middle of the market. Establish strong partnerships and open lines of communication. Some words of caution regarding the big-name brokers—they make prolific use of owner-operators. You’ve got to ask yourself—is that the kind of capacity you need? Is that the kind of capacity a business can rely upon?

(Data source: FMCSA &


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