2018 is a few short weeks away, which means the big industry mystery will be revealed. How close to that 50,000 mark will the American Trucking Association’s driver shortage prediction be? If that trend were to hold true, the ATA predicts that shortage to surpass the 174,000 mark by 2026. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

So what does this mean for your LTL shipments?

The obvious answer is a driver shortage is directly correlated to space limitations in LTL loads. Less available space equals higher prices and potential shipping delays. Many trucking companies are at capacity, not because of a lack of trucks, but the lack of qualified drivers.

The US is currently seeing an e-commerce boom and a growing/recovering US economy, which according to the ATA means a 2.8 percent increase in freight volumes for 2017 and a 3.4 percent annual growth for the new few years. Ideally this situation would be met with an increase in qualified drivers, but this just isn’t the case.

And let’s face it, millennials and younger generations currently populating the workforce aren’t flocking to be truck drivers. The good news is carriers seem to recognize this issue and are taking steps to make driving a more appealing career. A larger career pool would inevitably lead to more qualified drivers for carriers to employ.

And who knows, maybe trucker will be the next doctor or lawyer or astronaut.

As you may have noticed with your shipments, more and more carriers are switching from National Motor Freight Classification and commodity codes to determine freight class, and instead using density-based freight class calculations. Often times, this can lead to higher prices as carriers struggle to contend with the above-mentioned driver shortage. We expect this trend to continue as density-based pricing becomes more accurate and involves more verifications steps.

So what can you do?

Use Smart Packaging. Making sure your products are efficiently packed and in as normal a shaped box as you can manage does wonders with lowering your shipping classification.

Consider a 3PL. Take AFS for instance, we’ve collected huge amounts of data from a wide variety of clients. By partnering with a 3PL like AFS, you’ll have access to this data and analytics software to more accurately predict how the changing environment will affect your transportation spend. The savings potential from a partnership like this can help stabilize and even improve your bottom line, even in the midst of the current shipping environment.