The transportation and logistics industry sees increased demand

The demand for truck drivers continues to rise. The reported national shortage of 175,000 CDL drivers expected by 2024 has been brought on by two factors.

One factor is the number of baby boomers retiring, which is not expected to slow down. Second, with the continued growth in the economy and the number of other job opportunities that are available to job seekers, CDL driving positions are just one of many career choices available.

There also is demand for other positions in the logistics and distribution profession. Some of that demand is being spurred by Amazon and its growing warehouse presence. And though autonomous vehicles are becoming a reality, they’ll need support from human drivers to get the goods to their local destinations.

Smart Business spoke with Ian Wilson, director of the Transportation Center at Cuyahoga Community College, about the outlook for the transportation and logistics industry.

What is the expected demand for truck drivers over the next five years?
Demand in the transportation and logistics industry will only increase as retirements continue to create openings. At this point, there are more job opportunities within the transportation, distribution and logistics industry than there are trained individuals to take them.

Product demand drives everything. The more demand for products, the more people will be required to transport both raw materials to manufacturers and finished products to retailers. Most products and materials coming into the country make it to their final destination via truck. In addition to drivers hauling both raw materials and finished goods, the industry will still require professionals to coordinate pickup and delivery, and load trucks to satisfy consumer demand.

What impact has Amazon had on the demand for truck drivers?
Amazon is expected to make a significant difference to employment within the transportation, distribution and logistics industry as the company continues to grow. The biggest impact locally is from the introduction of the two new Amazon fulfillment centers, one at the abandoned Randall Park Mall and a second in Euclid.

The Randall Park location alone is projected to add 2,000 jobs in the transportation, distribution and logistics fields. These two locations will need more than just CDL drivers. It will also require warehouse and supply chain professionals.

How might autonomous vehicles affect the trucking and logistics industry?
Autonomous vehicles aren’t yet capable of navigating local roadways to deliver beverages to supermarkets or fuel to gas stations. That still takes human drivers.

Though an effect on local deliveries is still out of sight, there will likely be an impact soon on the long-distance aspect of the industry, where autonomous trucks could manage the highways without a human driver. And even when that becomes a reality, there will still be a need for a vast amount of drivers in the cities to distribute the goods to their final destination.

Filling the workforce demand requires training for drivers, warehouse workers and forklift operators. The industry has a lifetime of opportunities for advancement, from driver to logistics to project management. Automation isn’t likely to affect those positions anytime soon.

What concerns do employers have regarding the existing workforce?
Soft skills, such as interpersonal communication and interacting well with people, are crucial. A person has to be a reliable team player, otherwise most companies would rather do without them.

Turnover in the truck-driving field is a result of people coming into the industry without being fully aware of the expectations of the profession. People need to be honest with themselves and their family about the lifestyle they’re taking on.

Transportation and logistics offers a career, not just a job. But candidates need to understand what the industry is about, ask pertinent questions of employers and themselves and not just think about the pay. It’s important that trainers, educators and employers discuss the realities of the industry with potential employees to manage expectations and reduce turnover.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.