You may have noticed something strange happening the past few months: more and more of your packages are late, and some of those subscriptions you’re paying for (Amazon Prime, Birchbox, ASOS Premier) are increasing their prices or otherwise announcing changes to the program. So, what’s going on?
As it turns out, a shortage of truck drivers is to blame. As a result, it’s getting more expensive for companies to have their goods shipped to your door – a service people are increasingly demanding as we abandon physical retail stores for online shopping. The dearth of drivers has resulted in higher costs and delays for businesses, which are then passed along to customers.
As for what’s causing the scarcity, that’s a little more complicated. Despite offering a handsome paycheck ($250,000 a year for those with their own trucks, according to one article), there have still been difficulties recruiting new drivers. The always-criticized millennial generation has been characterized as being uninterested in the work, nor is the job perceived to be appealing to women.
Even those who don’t do much shopping online are going to notice some changes. Brick-and-mortar establishments beyond just retail stores, like restaurants and offices, will also have to face greater costs and may find themselves unable to offer their services at the same prices their patrons are used to.
It’s likely that consumers will continue to see these effects, potentially for years to come, as trucking firms try to work out a solution. Making changes to the requirements of the job itself could help: reducing the hours, limiting the amount of freight drivers must lift, or changing the design of trucks to be more comfortable by using materials that minimize noise, vibration and harshness. The development of autonomous vehicles is thought to be a long-term fix, but there’s no telling when they’ll be a viable option for replacing human-driven trucks.
With no clear answer in sight, it looks like, for now, we’ll all just have to deal with paying a little more. We want things from far away, and we want them here fast – but what cost will we be willing to accept?