US trucking pinch to get worse
The trucking sector in the US is close to crisis point.
A shortage of truck drivers, ripple effects from an extraordinarily harsh winter, new federal trucking regulations, more items needing to be transported and higher fuel costs are just some of the reasons why truckers are struggling to make their deliveries on time and at a reasonable price.
Industries as diverse as beer distributors and auto parts manufacturers are finding it hard to make ends meet due to ever-decreasing margins.
With the US economy apparently turning around, the trucking pinch could get even worse. As people are spending more on consumer goods, there are more raw goods and merchandise to transport.
And individuals who might otherwise drive trucks are opting for jobs in the now-rebounding construction sector.
The US is home to 3.2 million truckers but needs another 30,000 drivers, the American Trucking Associations say. The shortage has been a persistent issue; it ebbed during the recent Great Recession, but has worsened steadily as the economy improves.
The average pay for a tractor-trailer trucker is $38,200, according to the US Department of Labor's most recent data from 2012.
Last July, federal trucking hours-of-service rules changed, limiting the number of hours truckers can work and allowing them to restart their work clock if they sit out 34 hours, including certain hours of the night. The trucking industry says this curtails their productivity, which ultimately leads to higher trucking charges and higher prices on raw materials and items on store shelves.