The holiday shopping season is starting even earlier this year.
Experts are advising shoppers to begin buying gifts early, as existing supply chain issues could be worsened by continued truck driver shortages as well as new vaccine mandates.
The American Trucking Associations estimates that this year the industry has about 80,000 less drivers than they need to meet the current demand — a shortage that “predates COVID-19 but was exacerbated by the pandemic.”
In order to help combat the problem, companies are focused on hiring and increasing salaries.
“Truckers’ earnings are currently increasing at a rate 5x their historical average,” the American Trucking Associations said on the group’s website.
Although 74,500 jobs were added in the sector between April 2020 and September 2021, more truckers are still needed to meet the demand, per The Washington Post.
“I’m advertising every day,” Will Sibrian, co-owner of Sibrian Trucking, told CNN of his problems finding enough workers. “Weeks go by, I don’t get a call.”
Of course, the problem is larger than just a shortage of drivers, as every aspect of international transportation has taken a hit during the pandemic — and retailers are struggling to meet consumer needs, with many goods now being subject to shortages, backorders and delays.
“If you’re going to do your holiday shopping, do it now,” Sibrian told CNN. “Because things are going to run out. It’s going to be scarce.”
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Although the industry is mulling over ways to try and combat the problem — including passing legislation that would help recruit younger drivers — the issues won’t go away overnight.
The trucking industry has warned that the existing shortage could soon take another hit due to new federal vaccine mandates, which require companies with 100 or more employees to have all of their employees be fully vaccinated or take regular COVID-19 tests.
During the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday, Jon Samson — an executive director at the American Trucking Association — said that “a lot of larger truck lines have drivers with vaccine hesitancy,” per The Hill.
Samson explained that one reason behind the hesitancy is that most truck drivers tend to work alone, the outlet reported.
The new vaccine requirement — which will go into effect on Jan. 4, 2022 — is expected to cover 84 million employees, per the White House.
Learn more about the ongoing shortages and supply chain issues here.