Will COVID-19 Worsen California’s Truck Driver Shortage?

Research Team: Amelia Regan (lead) and Jean-Daniel Saphores

UC Campus(es): UC Irvine

Problem Statement: The trucking industry serves as the backbone of the nation’s economy. In 2018, approximately 3.5 million truck drivers were delivering over 70% of all freight tonnage in the United States, generating close to $800 billion in gross revenue annually.1 While 3.5 million truck drivers represents a significant number of jobs, it is not enough to satisfy demand. The trucking industry suffers from a chronic shortage of drivers. Nearly 70,000 additional heavy-duty tractor-trailer drivers in the United States were needed at the end of 2018, according to the American Trucking Associations. And COVID-19 has brought new challenges that may amplify or dampen the driver shortage and in turn impact supply chains. For example, what if a small percentage of long-haul truck drivers became ill? Would it cripple the industry? Would it significantly delay the delivery of essential medical supplies and equipment?

Project Description: This research project explored how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the shortage of truck drivers in the United States, and more specifically in California, by conducting a literature review, looking at past crises, and interviewing academic and industry experts.

Status: Completed

Policy Brief(s):