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Empty Seats: A Trucker Strike of a Different Kind

Empty Seats - Trucker Strike

Empty Seats – Trucker Strike

The infamous truck driver shortage has been a continual news story for at least the past two to three decades as noted in this article from February of 1990: Driver Shortage Spurs Company Incentive Plans. This particular article from nearly 25 years ago, even makes the statement:

“With so many jobs to fill, trucking executives are taking a more sympathetic view of drivers. Once regarded as easily replaced commodities, drivers increasingly are courted–even pampered–by employers.”

Recently, ATA chief economist Bob Costello continued with his assessment of this “serious” issue within the trucking industry by stating: “. . . the continued high turnover rate demonstrates that the market for qualified, experienced drivers in the country remain tight.” However, should one look at this issue from a logical point of view, it would be determined that the continued high turnover rate would demonstrate a severe problem within the industry at it relates to the relationship with their drivers.

The truck driver shortage myth has been a popular news-getter for decades and even today there are stories expressing such worry as: “It has become so difficult to fill truck-driver jobs that pay has begun rising and companies are pursuing each others drivers.

In several previous articles I have closed with following comments such as: “The industry itself created the shortage, they continue to create the shortage and only they can stop it”, most notably in the post: Breaking Down Barriers to the Truck Driver Shortage.

In the Spring of 2012, the Canadian Trucking Alliance, the equivalent of the ATA,  shared the same sentiment by sharing the following findings through their report: Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Driver Shortage in Trucking:

“As indicated throughout this report, it is the carriers themselves – the entities that hire, fire, determine what and how to pay their drivers, who price their service and deal with their customers, who are ultimately responsible for their businesses and therefore for ensuring they are able to recruit and retain the people needed to do the work.”

The greatest problem today is that truck driving does not appeal to a younger generation who are saying “No, Thank you” to long hours, low pay and the never-ending signs of disrespect and abuse. The days of learning about potential vocations through the daily newspaper are over, as a tech-savvy generation can learn all they need to know about a carrier via trucking social media outlets within minutes.

Furthermore, as some carriers are “stepping up” with increases in wages, can one really see a two or three cents-per-mile increase as a “raise?”  According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, average CPM starting wages are between $0.28 and $0.40; the near very same as 20-25 years ago. Motor carriers advertising a raise increase to $0.38 cpm, I ask: where exactly is the raise?

Even as a few carriers report a wage increase to $0.48 to $0.51 cpm, this can still not be seen as a raise for the simple fact of adjusting for inflation and cost-of-living expenses from the previous 2-3 decades; this is simply bringing drivers up-to-date to where their wages should have already been in regards to the past 25 to 30 years. Perhaps a 2015 starting mileage rate of $0.65 to $0.70 for company drivers and $2.00 to $2.50 for lease owner operators could be seen as a real raise?

The trucking industry now finds itself faced with a new, upcoming generation which has a more human mindset of where they would rather “have a life” instead of “spending a life” in a truck, away from home and family for weeks or months at a time. Even if the OTR industry were to change to a complete regional mode of operation, allowing drivers to make it home every 2-3 days or every weekend, this new generation still disregards trucking as a viable career and only sees it as just another job.

Regardless of the astounding shortage for truck drivers in a terrible economy that is crying for jobs, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, 36% of those aged between 18 to 31 were living with their parents as of 2012; the highest proportion within the past 40 years. As 56% of adults aged 18 to 24 are living at home, this millennial generation has made it clear that trucking is not an option.

Low pay, the lifestyle, the disrespect, the classification as “unskilled” labor among many other factors, all play a part in this industry-made driver shortage. In addition, as many call for the FMCSA to finalize an industry training standard for entry-level drivers which some see as another means to fill the empty seats, we may have another 25 years of just talk.

The primary reason that there is still no standard has to do with costs; costs to the carriers who would have to bring in additionally trained instructors, more training supplies, etc. In an industry such as trucking, years passed can provide the truth to such issues: when a rule-making is based on safety versus costs, costs will always win for those who carry the most money for lobbying.

I have said it before and I will say it again: The industry itself created the shortage and only they can stop it. If not, this trucker strike of a very different kind will continue.

Recently a new movement has begun which will separate the complainers and blamers from the doers. The movement is part of the North American Trucking Alerts and it represents a call to all those who are actively choosing to be a part of real solutions rather than continual empty talk.

AAA = Awareness, Accountability, Action

The call is for awareness, accountability and action from all those involved in trucking, everyone: drivers, carriers, shippers, receivers, brokers, groups, CDL Schools, and Organizations. It is time to address the truck driver shortage, as well as all the issues facing the industry and professional driver and the facts that are leading up to them. The buck needs to stop at all who are concerned enough to offer support and be part of real solutions.

© 2014, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.

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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"

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3 Responses to Empty Seats: A Trucker Strike of a Different Kind. - Post a Comment

  1. Kirk Kostoff

    Mr. Smith,

    Great piece. We are running this on Please keep up the momentum.

    The next generation is coming up quickly.

    Education and accessible legitimate lending partners and a firm understanding of the reality that we can no longer feed the need of the mega carrier and the desire to capitalize on the backs of our driving community is required.

    Credentialed Educated Drivers have the power to succeed on their own terms Push and hold the line.

    Be well.

    Kirk Kostoff DAOA/Ignis723LLC

  2. Richard Corbeil

    Hi Allen, a very good article that hit the nail right on the head. Hope that the carriers management will now understand it!

  3. Chris Stephenson

    I don’t see any signs of carriers increasing rates significantly, or treating their drivers with any more respect.

    In Vancouver BC, the port authority just eliminated 600 driving jobs by withdrawing port licences from a number of companies. These drivers will most likely be heading for OTR work on top of the large number of oilfield truckers being let go because of the slowdown. If anything there is a glut of truck drivers up here.

    I think the driver shortage myth is a tactic the carriers use to negotiate higher rates from the shippers.

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