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Another headwind for the U.S. economy: Not enough truck drivers

Jul 17, 2018 at 02:37 PM CST

A growing shortage of truck drivers may be producing a new problem: faster inflation.

Supply chain bottlenecks are "increasingly feeding into prices" with transportation costs posting a 1.1 percent gain in June, their biggest gain since 2008, according to Oxford Economics. At the same time, the Trump administration's trade policies and tariffs may exacerbate the situation further by pushing up the prices of consumer goods imported from China and other countries.

"It's an issue that might be adding further inflationary pressures at a time when prices are already rising," said Oxford Economics chief economist Gregory Daco in an interview. "I do think it's a factor that is playing a greater role on the margin."

The number of truck drivers has held steady at between 3 million and 3.5 million over the past two decades, according to the American Trucking Association (ATA). Freight volumes are expected to surge by about 37 percent over the next decade. The trade group estimates the industry now has a record shortage of 50,700 drivers, and expects that number to skyrocket to 174,000 by 2026 if "nothing happens."