CEO of major logistics firm makes a pitch to immigrants to address shortage of truck drivers

Business
  • C.H. Robinson's Robert Biesterfeld said immigration could help alleviate truck driver shortages that have increased 30% since before the pandemic.
  • Millions of workers across many industries have left their jobs in what employers have dubbed "The Great Resignation.
  • Employers have blamed pandemic shutdowns, but many workers said they left their jobs because employers were either not treating them well or did not provide enough flexibility, according to a CNBC report.

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The CEO of an American logistics firm on Wednesday suggested that more immigration to the U.S. could help alleviate the nationwide truck driver shortage.

"If you look across the demographic of truck driving, there's a very heavy slant to immigrants," C.H. Robinson Worldwide's Robert Biesterfeld said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "Trucking is a great job for people that want to come to this country, start a business and work for themselves."

The American Trucking Associations estimates an industry high shortage of 80,000 truckers this year. That's up more than 30% since 2018, well before the Covid pandemic started.

"The ATA estimates that over the next decade, we need to hire another million truck drivers to meet the needs of the demand that's coming," Biesterfeld said on "Squawk on the Street."

The shortage figures are the difference between drivers currently in the market and the optimal number of drivers based on freight demand, the ATA explained in a press release.

Biesterfeld's comments about how immigration could help the trucking industry echoed those made by Domino's Pizza CEO Ritch Allison about two weeks ago. "It's a challenge. In the U.S. with minimal population growth organically, we need immigration in our industry to continue to have enough team members," Allison said on CNBC's "Mad Money."

Millions of workers across many industries have left their jobs in what employers have dubbed "The Great Resignation. Employers have blamed pandemic shutdowns, but many workers said they left their jobs because employers were either not treating them well or did not provide enough flexibility, according to a CNBC report. Many workers from construction to Hollywood have been using or planning to use their newfound leverage to demand better working conditions.

Immigration could help fix the trucker shortage now, but to avoid future shortages, self-driving or autonomous trucks may become more mainstream, Biesterfeld said. "We certainly think that there will be a more autonomous future in trucking. … We tend to think that that's a bit further out into the future but we'll be ready for that as an organization."

The Biden administration's efforts to extend West Coast port hours to address supply chain snags are great first steps, "but doesn't clear the entire supply chain," Biesterfeld said.

"We've still got to deal with shortage of chassis that exist in the port, the availability of drainage capacity to go in and pick up those containers and then … we have to get capacity into the network to move them out of the ports," he said. "I do think we're going to continue to see these delays over the course of the next several months."

C.H. Robinson, with a stock market value of nearly $12.9 billion, closed roughly 0.9% lower Wednesday. The company on Tuesday beating Wall Street expectations with third-quarter profit and revenue.

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