Labor Shortage Continues to Challenge Trucking Industry

Labor Shortage Continues to Challenge Trucking Industry

2020 was a year full of change and challenges for most industries, and the trucking industry was no exception. While things are starting to look up in 2021 with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, businesses re-opening, and foodservice finally making a comeback, the current state of the trucking industry can still best be described as “complicated,” according to Tony Bradley, president and CEO of the Arizona Trucking Association.

“For the most part, trucking is in a really good spot,” he said in early June. “There is plenty of freight that needs to get delivered, which is a good thing, but we are having a difficult time staffing operations to meet the demand.”

Labor has and continues to be a major issue within the trucking industry. Denny Donovan, Fresh Kist sales manager told The Produce News that he knew of brokers who simply couldn’t find drivers. “Too many of them are supposedly staying home collecting stimulus checks and not driving,” he said.

While there has been no further mention of ongoing stimulus checks, the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress and signed by the Biden Administration authorized an additional $300 in weekly benefit checks until Sept. 6, which could bring an unemployed individual’s total monthly income anywhere between $2,000-4,000 depending on the state.

While there was definitely a need for extra unemployment benefits during the height of the pandemic, some in the produce industry worry that this ongoing increase in benefits is disincentivizing people from getting back into the workforce now that jobs are plentiful.

“We are competing with the government to attract employees,” said Bill Nardelli of Cederville, NJ-based Nardelli Lake View Farms, which handles its own growing, packing and transportation. “With them giving all these extra benefits, it affects the pay scale. As long as they continue with this, it makes it a challenge. A lot of these people on unemployment did need help getting through this past year, but now we see operations all over the country with ‘help needed’ signs in the windows. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of jobs.”