Cost-Effective Solution to Construction Truck Driver Shortage

Trucks moving dirt on a construction site

A truck driver shortage makes moving dirt, sand, gravel, and other minerals difficult in mining and construction sites. Many transport companies attempt to solve the problem by increasing pay. Yet, the driver shortage still persists without a clear solution on the horizon. 

The good news is that using conveyors instead of trucks on mining and construction sites can significantly alleviate or even solve the problem. Read on to learn how a custom conveyor system offers a cost-effective strategy for the truck driver shortage.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were around 2.1 million tractor-trailer and long-haul truck drivers in 2022. Another 1.7 million drivers were behind the wheels of local and regional delivery vehicles, including “hotshot” drivers hauling flatbed trailers behind their heavy-duty pickups.

And yet the American Trucking Association (ATA) states the country now needs around 80,000 new truck drivers to meet demand. Recruitment efforts have yet to be successful in resolving the deficit. The ATA also estimates that the U.S. will be short some 160,000 drivers by 2030 if everything stays the same.

The pandemic may have aggravated the problem, but it wasn’t the cause. Evidence of the driver shortage emerged in late 2018 through 2019, indicated by rising driver pay. Increasing compensation signifies labor scarcity in a market. 

So, what’s going on?


Industry experts attribute the shortage of truck drivers in 2023 to an aging workforce and a need for more recruitment. In short, the number exiting the profession exceeds recruits entering it.

According to the ATA Driver Shortage Update 2021, only 7% of truck drivers are women. This gender disparity in the trucking industry has persisted over time. Trucking companies may need to focus on recruiting more women into truck driving positions to address the driver shortage.

In October 2020, FleetOwner magazine quoted National Transportation Institute CEO Leah Shaver as saying, “The average age in the pool of fleets that we survey is 54”. This implies the average driver is now around 57 years old. This is when many men start thinking about doing something different, such as fishing, golfing, or spending time with grandkids.

With an aging workforce and fewer new drivers entering the field, the trucking industry needs significantly more qualified drivers. A continued shortage could lead to supply chain disruptions and higher costs for goods.

The industry understands these issues and is making changes. As mentioned, pay is climbing. In addition, companies are exploring switching to pay per hour rather than per mile. There are shifts underway in logistics, distribution, and even vehicle conditions.

These changes will all help, but they will take time to have a measurable impact. So what’s a business or project manager who needs stuff moving to do in the meantime?

It’s time to take a closer look at conveyors.


No one is suggesting we can replace all mining and construction site truck drivers with conveyors. While some conveyor systems extend miles, they’ll never handle long distances between extraction and delivery points. They could help, though, in applications where trucks follow the same short route repeatedly.

Unloading material into temporary storage and moving it to the job site seem like ideal applications. Construction CDL drivers have a lot of material transport work; the bigger the project, the more there is to move.

Conveyors have many applications beyond distribution centers and airports. They have more extensive uses than many people realize. Conveyor systems are an excellent and well-proven way of moving materials like rock, aggregate, sand, cement, and dirt. 

Mines and quarries rely on conveyor systems to move hundreds of tons of material per hour. This increased productivity saves them the trouble and expense of operating a fleet of trucks and hiring drivers. Construction sites can gain the same benefits.

Civil engineers and construction managers typically utilize numerous trucks to transport materials on job sites. Conveyor systems present an alternative option that is less vulnerable to labor shortages. 

Several types of overland conveyors work well for relocation as a project progresses. Common types of overland mobile conveyors are:

  • Transfer conveyors
  • Stacker conveyors

Transfer conveyors unload from the discharge chute beneath rail cars or trailers. They raise material that will drop into a hopper or onto another conveyor.

Stacker conveyors pile up (stacking) material like salt and aggregate. Telescoping stackers have an extending reach, radial stackers can swivel around in an arc, and telescoping radial stackers do both.

Conveyors offer additional options beyond just transfer and stacker styles. Some have anchored concrete blocks that act as weights to hold the system in place. This system prevents the need to concrete them directly into the ground. Workers can move them around as needed.


Operating a truck fleet requires significant drivers, fuel, and maintenance costs. Downtime from breakdowns or driver shortages can bring operations to a standstill. In contrast, conveyors provide major cost, efficiency, and uptime advantages compared to trucking.

Conveyors powered by automated electric motors are far more cost-effective than truck fleets dependent on expensive diesel fuel. A conveyor system reduces labor costs by removing the need for hard-to-find, high-salaried commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders. These substantial savings free up facility budgets previously allocated to trucking expenses.

Additionally, these systems boost efficiency beyond what trucks can achieve. They continuously move materials without stopping. Multiple units easily connect different areas of a facility, optimizing material flow. Their uptime is also higher since they operate independently of driver staffing.

Conveyors increase efficiency by moving materials faster with less downtime, generating superior ROI without requiring CDL drivers. Running long distances nonstop optimizes workflow and productivity. As an appealing alternative to trucking, they help overcome driver shortage obstacles by streamlining operations.


West River Conveyors has spent decades designing and building conveyor systems for moving heavy, dirty, and abrasive materials. We design our portable and fixed systems for robustness, reliability, and low operating costs. 

Click below to learn more about the value conveyors offer over a fleet of trucks.

See The Benefits of Using Conveyors Instead of Trucks