A recovering economy with more job options, an aging workforce, new safety regulation and a poor industry image are all going to create “a perfect storm” that will leave trucking with a severe driver shortage, according to Kevin Burch, president & CEO of Jet Express and past chairman of the Truckload Carriers Assn.

Moderating a roundtable discussion for truckload carriers at the annual ALK Transportation Technology Summit, Burch said the average age for drivers in his 200-truck fleet was 58 and that the overall average for the industry was 47. “We've been doing a lousy job getting new drivers into the industry,” he said.

With CSA 2010 bringing increased safety awareness, fleets will have to begin “cleaning up their driver pools now,” Burch stressed. Combined with the aging driver population and “a little spark in the economy,” carriers face a renewed driver shortage, he said.

“It's time to get recruitment and retention efforts back in gear,” Burch continued. Pay will go up, but the industry also needs to begin looking at other ways to offset the shortage, he said.

“We need to work with government to remove some of the barriers to entry for new drivers, Burch said. More productive equipment and changes in distribution patterns to allow more time at home for drivers also need to be considered, he said.

“This isn't just a trucking problem,” Burch said. “The whole economy will suffer if we don't have enough drivers to move the freight.”