There is no looking past all the chaos in the global transportation space. In the USA, both trucking and rail networks are under pressure. Rail workers in the USA want to strike, but at the moment, they have been blocked.
Ground transportation is facing an acute crisis of morale. The two major forms of ground transit in North America are trucks and trains, so when a lot of these professionals leave the workforce, the impact will be felt as ripple effects penetrate the market.
Like many in the transportation sector, rail workers in the USA have been struggling to keep up with a system in fragile condition, and near-record inflation.
No matter where we look, there is a trend towards leaving ground transportation jobs in North America. Truck drivers are also in peril. With workloads rising, and costs skyrocketing, many truck drivers are looking for other work.
The impact from more hours on the job seems to be taking its toll on rail workers. Many report that 9-hour days have become 12 hours on the job, with fewer breaks at home to recharge.
While psychological wear-and-tear is hard to see in short-term numbers, the struggle of Union Pacific to attract new workers seems to illustrate the point. The company had 30,100 employees in Q1 2022, which is 12,000 less than just five years ago.
A similar trend is easy to see in trucking.
Truckers were upset by movement restrictions over the course of the COVID-19 policies and their protests had a meaningful impact on the North American economy. In addition, truck drivers in the USA are leaving the profession in record numbers.
In the USA, more than 70% of ground freight is moved by trucks, which makes the dwindling number of truck drivers especially dramatic.
For the rail workers that are still on the job because of President Biden’s executive order, the issues that brought the railways to the brink of a 60-day strike haven’t been dealt with. At most, the President bought the nation a little bit of time.
In the long run, unless ground transportation companies are able to attract reliable workers, the only way that the industry can function is through automation.
A new class of autonomous vehicles has the potential to address the moral issues ground transportation faces, but whether or not the technology can grow fast enough to avert widespread supply chain interruptions is anyone’s guess.