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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Will COVID-19 Worsen California’s Truck Driver Shortage?

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The trucking industry serves as the backbone of the nation’s economy. In 2018, approximately 3.5 million truck drivers were delivering over 70% of all freight tonnage in the United States, generating close to $800 billion in gross revenue annually.1 While 3.5 million truck drivers represents a significant number of jobs, it is not enough to satisfy demand. The trucking industry suffers from a chronic shortage of drivers. Nearly 70,000 additional heavy-duty tractor-trailer drivers in the United States were needed at the end of 2018, according to the American Trucking Associations. And COVID-19 has brought new challenges that may amplify or dampen the driver shortage and in turn impact supply chains. For example, what if a small percentage of long-haul truck drivers became ill? Would it cripple the industry? Would it significantly delay the delivery of essential medical supplies and equipment? New research from UC Irvine explored the challenges imposed by COVID-19 on truck drivers by conducting a literature review, looking at past crises, and interviewing academic and industry experts.

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