From Black Friday to Cyber Monday and all throughout December, there will be more products sold and shipped in the U.S. than any other time of the year. Staffing shortages and recent import tariffs have made retail executives stay on their toes and prepare for the season.
Another concern that certainly weighs heavy on their minds are fuel and trucking costs, in particular the truck driver shortage that has plagued the trucking industry for years now.
Chief Executive Ernie Herrman of TJX Companies has done his job to stay aware of the shortage and make sure their interests are accounted for. He’s stated, “I think our flexibility and our business model allows us to go after the right categories to help drive the sales, and I think our track record has shown that we will figure out something to keep pushing that top line to help with these freight increases”.
Experts say the driver shortage issue can be traced back as early as 2004. That year, federal rules mandated drivers a total of 11 drivable hours that ran continuous from the moment they got behind the wheel. Time spent at loading docks meant drivers could not work as long, causing a need for more drivers to cover routes. Time constraints intensified even more with the implementation of Electronic Logging Device, (ELD) at the beginning of 2018. Even with unemployment near its lowest in 50 years, the trucking industry has trouble attracting workers. Construction, manufacturing, and other industries can offer the ability for their employees to be home with their families nightly, something not all trucking jobs can offer.
We’ve seen the push for autonomous truck ramp up in recent months, a step in alleviating some of the shipping constraints for retailers. A bill introduced to Congress in March of 2019 by the transportation industry is seeking to allow persons 18 years of age and up to operate semi-trucks. Currently the age restriction for drivers on interstate highways is 21. This would give 18 year olds who are not pursuing a college education an opportunity to make serious money immediately after high school graduation. These changes along with pay increases are expected to help truck/driver availability in the future, but through the rest of 2018 retailers are ready to pay the premium to make sure their customers get their products on time.