Truck driver shortage could raise prices for consumers

GREEN LAKE, Wis. (WBAY) -- As Wisconsin’s unemployment rate falls to a record low, the need for employees is on the rise – something trucking companies nationwide are facing.

Experts call the problem “alarming,” as the shortage of truck drivers could affect consumers.

“Our drivers, they typically drive between 400 to 550 miles a day,” says Sarah Pantol, Human Resources Director for FLASH trucking company.

Tuesday night, truck driver Ed Frank tells Action 2 News he’s gearing up for the next day’s ride: a trip from Green Lake, Wisconsin to St. Cloud, Minnesota. Then down to Kohler, Wisconsin, and finally ending the night in Sturgeon Bay.

In all, that’s upwards of 826 miles.

“Drivers are working long shifts, that definitely can happen,” Pantol admits.

These long hours are just one part of a nationwide trucking shortage that experts say has been in thet works for at least five years.

FLASH trucking, a Midwestern company based in Green Lake, Wisconsin, has 80 truck drivers. Employees say they could use at least 30 more.

“We have to turn away business,” Pantol says. “We have to change the way that we run our business. Sometimes we have to run routes that we wouldn't normally run, so we're running empty miles.”

It’s not just a problem for trucking companies. Fewer drivers could drive up the price for consumers, too.

“Any goods that are delivered by a trucking company will rise in price. That just seems like common sense,” says Susan Bach, Northeast Wisconsin Regional Director for the Better Business Bureau.

“We've raised wages. Our wages are higher than average wages. So in order to do that, we then of course have to raise prices, and that just has a rippling effect across the entire economy,” Pantol explains.

Because trucking companies are in need of drivers, many are raising their wages to stay competitive. With that, companies must also raise the price for their customers, to make up for the loss. That, in turn, means distribution companies will likely raise prices for consumers.

This spike in prices has already been felt by consumers – after Amazon announced it’s upping the price for Amazon Prime users.

“That's probably one of the reasons why Amazon is doing things like raising their Prime membership, because it's costing them more money as well,” Bach says. “So it really is a snowball effect, this shortage of workers.”

Companies like FLASH are working to combat the problem, by advertising the advantages of being a truck driver.

“We're offering different benefits. We're offering incentives to come and work for us,” Pantol tells Action 2 News. “We have a lot of newer benefit programs that we're working with.”

At FLASH, such benefits include health and wellness programs, gym memberships and the perk of being home most nights, or on the weekends.