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Defining the Truck Driver Shortage and the “Qualified Driver”

The Truck Driver Shortage- Defining the Qualified Driver

The Truck Driver Shortage- Defining the Qualified Driver

The Truck Driver Shortage- Part 1
Defining the Qualified Truck Driver

In the recent ATA press release, addressing the continuous “driver shortage” plaguing the trucking industry, their analysis states that the shortage has grown to nearly 48,00 and could increase more due to industry growth and the retiring truck driver community. According to analysis and if the current trend holds, the shortage may balloon to almost 175,000 by 2024

This October 6th report from the ATA raised questions about the “Driver Shortage” dilemma ,which has been a topic of discussion for as long as I can remember.
The first question that came to mind, is the definition of a driver shortage, and who is defining it, the driver or the carrier?

It is the definition of truck driver shortage which will also shape and define the cause and effects of the shortage, as ones perception of cause will also ultimately dictate their solutions for the shortage.

A drivers’ definition of a truck driver shortage “A lack of drivers willing to work for low wages”
A carriers’ definition is , “A driver shortage is a lack of qualified  drivers”

Those are vastly different definitions! In order to address a problem, such as the Driver Shortage, both sides will need to at least recognize each ones perception of the problem. If not, solutions will be a long way off.

Defining the Qualified Driver

Let’s first begin with the definition of “Qualified Drivers”
Drivers would state that a qualified driver is one with knowledge, experience, and a safe driving record.
On the other hand, according to the ATA President and CEO Bill Graves, “The ability to find enough qualified drivers is one of our industry’s biggest challenges”

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said “An important thing we learned in this analysis is that this isn’t strictly a numbers problem, it is a quality problem too,” … “Fleets consistently report receiving applications for open positions, but that many of those candidates do not meet the criteria to be hired. According our research, 88% of carriers said most applicants are not qualified.”

Understanding the difference between the terms: driver shortage and qualified driver shortage.

The ATA report goes on to say, The truck driver shortage probably seems much worse to motor carriers than the current figures suggest because of a quality versus quantity issue. Many carriers have strict hiring criteria based on driving history, experience and other factors.

We spoke to John Peroyea, president of, who reviews thousands of driver applications. We asked him the question,
“Do you find many applicants who are not qualified to be hired? If so, what are the major reasons?

This was John’s reply:

“We are certainly not seeing a lack of experienced drivers registering for our website to apply for truck driver jobs. Many drivers have years of experience in various types of driver jobs and hold many endorsements. What can hold drivers back however are the specific application requirements at various carriers.

A factor that can disqualify otherwise experienced drivers is preventable accidents within a certain time frame and/or number of jobs held within the last few years. Also, many carriers have various requirements for length of time since a felony conviction or DWI for example.

Since the criteria varies from company to company an experienced driver may meet the criteria for most companies but fall short of others.”
John Peroyea, President of 

FindATrucker is a trusted AskTheTrucker partner providing a truck driver employment website, matching drivers to their specific job needs.

Now, I can definitely understand the questioning of “time since the last felony conviction or DWI”, but the idea of basing a drivers’ quality by “number of jobs held within the last few years”, raised my eyebrows.   Why are drivers going from “job to Job?” Are employers asking drivers this question?

What does the ATA say about that?

In the ATA’s Truck Driver Shortage Analysis it states, Turnover is a reflection of demand for drivers, with higher rates generally indicating strong demand for drivers. The vast majority of driver turnover is churn in the industry – drivers going from one carrier to another. As demand for drivers increases, trucking companies try to take drivers from other carriers by offering sign- on bonuses, newer trucks, and better routes.”

Really?  Drivers are leaving a great well paying job for a shinier truck and better route? But if the ATA says that drivers keep hopping, then why aren’t they staying with the company offering the shiny truck and better route?  Are they then leaving for a shinier truck and an even better route? Or could it be something more sinister, like higher wages, better treatment, or maybe even being paid for all hours, such as detention time pay?

The idea that a driver is considered “not qualified” because they’re seeking better employment is ludicrous, and equally absurd is that the driver moves on to this next job with better promise… and yet does not STAY with them. Why aren’t they?
Are drivers really this fickle? Do they enjoy leaving one job and going to another, or is it possible that the industry continues to make promises they don’t keep.

If the job was truly what is was described as, would drivers not stay?
So is the problem therefore retention? And what is the correct cause of such driver behavior… Is it unstable drivers or perhaps companies who paint a rosy picture but do not follow through?

If criteria of a “qualified driver” is based somewhat upon driver job stability, and yet the employers are not following through on their driver hiring expectations causing driver instability, then I say, the industry MUST admit to at least partial responsibility  of driver job hopping.
If they do, they may have to become accountable for the driver shortage problem.

For most of you reading this, this is nothing more than the age old recruiting tactics that have been going on for decades. The only difference is that they worked in the past, bringing in thousands of people to the trucking industry, only to see them leave after a short time. Turnover was not as serious a problem back in the day, it was welcome and part of the cheap labor business model.

Truck Driver Shortage is Industry Created

It didn’t matter in the past as drivers were a commodity, used for cheap labor. The difference is now, drivers are an asset and companies would prefer to retain their drivers, mainly because those now entering the industry are fewer and have higher expectations. In other words, working 70+ hours/wk, living in a truck, and being away from home for weeks at a time, all for a whopping $500.00/week, just isn’t cutting it for those entering.

Truck driver retention and the generation gap

The fact is this, drivers go to job from job because they are dissatisfied with their job. Most often the promises made by the hiring company, which looked so appealing, were not kept.  Drivers leave and continue to look for better employment.

Want to cure the number of jobs held within the last few years aspect of the “qualified driver problem”?
Answer:  Pay and treat drivers well and keep the promises you made upon hiring.

Real Solutions to the Truck Driver Shortage

Stay tuned for Part 2
The Truck Driver Shortage- Causes and Solutions


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By: Allen Smith

Allen Smith is a 37 year veteran who started at an early age in a household goods family moving business. He began driving straight trucks in 1977 and moved to the big rigs in 1982. His experience within the industry includes; owner operator, company driver, operations manager, and owner of a long distance HHG moving business, taking many of the long haul moves himself when needed. Allen Smith, a truck driver advocate who is driven by the desire to help others succeed within an industry where injustice, unrewarded sacrifice, and lack of respect and recognition exists. Allen and his wife Donna are hosts of Truth About Trucking ”Live” on Blog Talk Radio. Other websites include AskTheTrucker, TruckingSocialMedia, NorthAmericanTruckingALerts, TruthAboutTrucking, and many Social Media websites. In 2011 Allen and Donna hosted the first Truck Driver Social Media Convention, designed to create unity and solutions for the trucking industry. This is now being extended through the North American Trucking Alerts network as those within the industry join forces for the betterment of the industry. Allen strongly supports other industry advocates who are also stepping up to the plate to help those who share honesty, guidance and direction. He believes that all those involved in trucking need to be accountable for their part within the industry, including drivers, carriers, brokers, shippers, receivers, etc… The list of supporters and likeminded people grow daily, networking together and sharing thoughts and ideas for the betterment of trucking. He has coined the popular phrase "Raising the standards of the trucking industry"

View all posts by Allen Smith →

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10 Responses to Defining the Truck Driver Shortage and the “Qualified Driver”. - Post a Comment

  1. Dallas Loupot

    You can have some drivers with bad records still be a good hire, “If you have a tracking system that has a DRIVER SCORE CARD.” I work with 4 insurance companies and they give up to 25% on commercial insurance for companies that use our system where they can see the driver history and a SCORE CARD each month. This can help the “bad” driver get back on track and over time get his driving record back to”Good ” driver status. If anyone has a question on that feel free to email me.

    Have a Blessed Day.

  2. Chuck Shepard

    I have a unique position on this, retired now, I have about 50 years and 5 mil miles to look at, mostly in the construction industry, but also across the total spectrum of ground transportation. So here are some of my observations, and personal ideas for stabilizing the industry:

    1] The trucking companies are the major reason for the job hoping, not just for low wages, and their “drivers are a dime a dozen” attitude, but they don’t have guts enough to stand up for their drivers human needs, ei;
    a] they never stood their ground when the federal government de-humanized the industry with the forced 2005 rev regs down everyone’s throat with NO regard for any input from the drivers or responsible companies, but gave 100% credibility to a bunch of labrat nannies and screaming car clubs, {equivalent of drivers telling the ISS crew how to fly it}

    1 14 hour clock that can’t be stopped, might want a nap, or stop for FWR some where, or just don’t feel good, etc
    2 8 Hour immediate sleeper berth, you already been in that rag for 10-14 hours and just might want to go get some food and relax BEFORE bed time, and not everyone needs or wants 8 hours sleep,
    3 CVSA points for all violations, but no recourse for conditions beyond drivers control,

    2. Shippers and receivers that load and unload for hours on end, with no reimbursement for the drivers, and eat their time up, and yet expect them to outlaw the load to a predetermined, and usually unrealistic, appointment time, with no buffer for weather, traffic, unforeseen hazards, etc, then impose late fines on the driver, but not the DM that didn’t call to change the time,

    3 Local governments and companies that penalize drivers for parking close to their destination, establishing “no truck” zones, no idling zones, and conditions that those making the regs would never live under in their world,

    4.Feds categorize driers as “unskilled labor”, giving the companies grounds for less than optimal wages, WITH per diem for away from home expenses,

    So as you can see, I believe there are a lot of entities responsible for the shortages, besides the hype, misinformation, and out right lies, most potential drivers get into the industry just to get mad at all involved and go find a better occupation, with better pay, better home time, better benefits and more respect for them as professionals.
    just my 2 cents worth.

  3. NOT a future trucker

    “working 70+ hours/wk, living in a truck, and being away from home for weeks at a time, all for a whopping $500.00/week, just isn’t cutting it for those entering.” = just barely $7 an hour.

    Why should I quit my current desktop job in a comfortable environment, $20/hour and steady 9-5 hours with benefits to work in an environment with unpredictable weather, uncooperative loading docs, sleep in 15 foot cab, idiot four wheel drivers, harassing dispatchers and overkill regulations from the federal and state govts, and lack of parking in secure areas?

    NO THANKS ! ! ! !

    • Craig Vecellio

      Actually, once you account for overtime pay at time and a half, that’s only $5.88 per hour. That also doesn’t account for the unpaid time ‘off duty’ waiting on somebody with a forklift to do his job. Based on a typical 14 hour work day, average 6 days per week, (drivers who get home weekly typically only get the minimum 34 off,) $7.25 per hour works out to $768 and change per week, or $40,000 per year.

  4. Larry Blessing

    Don’t you think the real reason that there is such a shortage of drivers is because so many “Trucking Companies” are not willing to pay a GOOD driver a living wage…. When I talk with other drivers that don’t make what I make, my first question is why are you working them?

  5. […] Read more – “Defining the Truck Driver Shortage and the “Qualified Driver” […]

  6. […] But was there really a driver shortage to the degree and desperation that one was being led to believe?  The simplified answer is YES and NO. The “Yes” part,;  drivers are leaving the industry, whether that be from retiring, illness, or they just had enough of regulations, life on the road, and low wages. The new generation was not as eager to be a part of the trucking industry either, as the lifestyle and sacrifice does not line up with the low wages being offered. The “No” part of the driver shortage answer is because there remain plenty of drivers looking for work, but they, for some reason  are not hireable, either because of CSA and the associated PSP driver scores, or tainted DAC reporting, or simply choose not to work for Low Wages. The ATA blamed it on driver job hopping.  But why are they hopping? Read more ” Defining the Truck Driver Shortage and the “Qualified Driver” […]

  7. Les Willis

    Here is the issue in a nut shell. Every Company within the top 20 For Hire ranking has the ability to stop turnover in its Tracks. The observation here is— If it wasn’t Profitable for them to keep a revolving door, They would not be doing it. Turnover would cease and there would be a line formed outside of their Doors for Employment Opportunity’s. I have yet to hear of Walmart with a retention Problem. I have yet to hear of an top 20 listed LTL Carrier with a Retention Problem. Again– If it wasn’t Profitable it would not be happening Plain and Simple.

    • Allen Smith

      You had better believe it. It’s all part of the business plan to keep profits high and freight rates down.

  8. […] It is the definition of truck driver shortage, which will also shape and define the cause and effects of the shortage, as ones perception of cause will also ultimately dictate their solutions for the shortage.   Defining the Truck Driver Shortage and the “Qualified Driver” […]

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