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Professional Truck Driving Requires No Skill


Allen SmithBy:  Allen Smith

Maneuvering an 18-wheeler through the city streets of Chicago, Detroit or one of the colonial-time cities of New England can test the patience of the most experienced truck driver.  Handling a rig that is 70 feet long, 13 1/2 feet high and weighing 40 tons is tough enough . . . add hundreds of other vehicles into the scenario, along with hundreds of pedestrians and all kinds of various distractions and obstacles . . . it is no wonder that our men and women truckers are referred to as “professional.”   However, does it really require any skill to operate a commercial motor vehicle?  According to the U.S. Department of State and the Wage and Hour Division . . . it does not.

In fact, these departments consider the skill of a professional truck driver, equal to the skills of a janitor and a telephone operator.  No matter what a person’s job is, work is honorable.  Regardless, should the performance of a professional trucker be equal to that of a short-order cook?  As far as the law is concerned, professional truck driving requires no skill.  These laws are contradictory of each other.

To begin with, the term “professional” is defined as:  “A member of a vocation founded upon specialized and educational training.” It further refers to being  “Engaged in one of a learned profession.” CMV drivers are always referred to as a “professional” by trucking companies and trucking organizations alike.  CMV driving jobs are always referred to as “careers” by companies and job placement services.  Thus, we have a profession within a career . . . which equals professional.

The term “unskilled” is defined as:  “Lacking skill or technical training” – “Requiring no training or skill” – “Exhibiting a lack of skill.” It is further described as:  “Not having, showing or requiring special skill or proficiency of any kind.” These two terms, professional and unskilled, contradict each other when we look at the professional truck driver.  Jobs are also considered unskilled when the worker can “Learn to do them in 30 days or less.”

Granted, a person can go it alone and not attend a CDL training school and take the written tests and borrow a friend’s semi rig for the driving test, and achieve the CDL on their own . . . the problem with this is . . . nobody will hire them.  In order to be considered for hiring by the trucking companies, one has no choice but to attend “specialized, educational training.”   Courses often consists of 160 hours of technical training within a minimum of three weeks, followed by further technical training with a professional driver-trainer for another three weeks or longer.   I’m no mathematical genius, but last time I checked, a minimum of  three weeks of CDL training and another minimum of three weeks of real world driver training, equals more than 30 days.  Furthermore, since truck drivers are classified as unskilled workers, why then, is the CMV driving test called a “skills test?”

When you break down the systematic order of a professional truck driving career, you arrive with many variables that only points to one main aspect:  skill.   So why does the Wage and Hour Division label truck drivers as unskilled labor?  For the true answer, one must look at the entire scope of global economics.

The law of supply and demand dictates the survival or non-survival of unskilled workers.  In today’s technological world, companies now consider their most valuable assets as being the knowledge, network and skills maintained by their employees.  This is what is known as “Human Capital.”  Just as machinery became more sophisticated and raised productivity in manufacturing, workers with knowledge and skills raise productivity across the ever expanding world economies . . . at least in theory.

According to U.S. Census data, more than 70% of American adults are classified as unskilled workers.  This large majority of unskilled labor is the driving force in keeping company and corporate expenses low, resulting in higher business profits.  This corporate greed is further expanded through such programs as NAFTA.  By opening the borders into America, the United States would become flooded with more unskilled workers, thus continuing the demand for low wages and cheap labor.  Therefore, all the discussion for increasing trade, is actually an attempt to maintain the usage of unskilled labor which in turn, will lead to further profit making for big business.

By increasing the supply of unskilled labor, wages for workers in the United States will be reduced even further.  These lower wages are a by-product of increasing the unskilled work force.  It is basic economics:  increase the supply of something . . . and you lower its price.   Not only does this help with business profit increase, consumers also benefit from the usage of unskilled workers.  It is a global exploitation of the unskilled laborer.  By classifying professional truck drivers as unskilled, their wages remain low, thus providing higher profit margins for the employer, and helping to stabilize the global economical impact on all developing countries.

In order to present an awe of working to help the unskilled, Congress will step up from time to time and raise the minimum wage.  This in fact, further hurts the unskilled worker.  Lower-skill workers become less employable when the minimum wage rises.  Studies have shown that when the minimum wage goes up, businesses will change what workers will be hired.  If they are now going to be forced to pay higher wages, companies will let their unskilled workers go, and replace them with more highly-skilled workers in order to achieve a higher productivity.  Research consistently demonstrates that higher minimum wages lead businesses to hire skilled workers at the expense of unskilled workers.   Therefore, by raising the minimum wage, the act ends up actually hurting the very people it was meant to help.

Unskilled workers are also subject to a much larger risk of unemployment during recessions than are skilled workers.  Workers classified as unskilled, earn less income and leads to something we see in the trucking industry all the time:  employee turnover.  High turnover can be harmful to a company’s productivity if skilled workers are leaving, but those classified as unskilled labor are seen as employees that can be easily replaced.  If professional truck drivers suddenly left the trucking companies, does the Wage and Hour Division believe that they could be easily and readily replaced?   They possibly could be . . . at the expense of public safety.

As advocates and organizations constantly scream about safety, professionalism and proper educational and technical training, how can the American trucker be classified as unskilled?  It has nothing to do with safety . . . it has everything to do with global economics and the exploitation of cheap labor.

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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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22 Responses to Professional Truck Driving Requires No Skill. - Post a Comment

  1. […] the original post: Truck Drivers Exploited as Unskilled Labor | AskTheTrucker Share and […]

  2. […] rest is here:  Truck Drivers Exploited as Unskilled Labor | AskTheTrucker Share and […]

  3. John Shuhart

    So Much B.S.
    It does take skill & patience to drive a big rig! I’d like to see the President or any other of these politician **** drive one!!!!! Then who is unskilled!!!!!

  4. carl (American Trucker)

    Wonderful article straight to point.I’m a 25yr otr driver/educator.And this industry is taking a beating. I would like to converse with you more on this for i am writing a book myself.

  5. Gary

    The only way to get the politicians to change their current policy of labeling truckers as unskilled would be to put them all in a big rig and have them try to operate it. I know this would work because Hell’s Angels have lobbied to keep motorcycle helmet use as personal choice by putting our law makers in full faced helmets and telling them to conduct business like that. And this tactic is still used today giving adults the freedom to wear a helmet or not.

  6. Shirley

    They sure are unskilled with all the money they take out of our unskilled paychecks. I drove for over 25 years and taught truck driving for 9 years. Nothing unskilled about driving and delivering freight, so many rules and regulations. They all need to get in a truck and see what really happens. True stupidity.

  7. Allen Smith

    Appreciate the comments. There is much more going on here with classifying truckers as unskilled labor. Keeping unskilled laborers in the U.S. also keeps wages down. The millions of illegal immigrants are allowed to remain here, for that very reason. The Government and the U.S. Department of Labor wants unskilled, illegals to stay in the U.S., in order to keep wages low.

    Remember some time ago when they announced that they were going to do a “sweep” and round up illegals and send them back home? A few stories hit the media about a couple of these successful “sweeps” but then … never heard another word about it?

    It was just to satisfy the general public and make it look like they were cracking down on the problem. Truth is, they want them here … the more illegal and/or unskilled workers that remain in the U.S. will do exactly what the Government and the Dept. of Labor wants … keep wages down.


  8. Dr. Ethan Hagen

    Interesting post. I am someone who was not a lifetime over the road driver and decided one day after 18 years of being a caregiver as a chiropractor to take what I thought would be a “break” and try something different. I had driven double hopper bottoms on the farm since I could reach the peddles so it was fairly easy to get the license renewed but over the next six months I found out that I had know idea how much a true professional driver had to keep track of every moment just to stay alive. I also met a ton of true professionals who watched out for me and tried to give me valuable advice. These folks have a Phd. in life. I am not kidding when I tell people that it takes years to learn the ropes as a professional driver and it’s not something you can just jump into. These definitions that the government tries to tag onto a group are very dangerous like Allen says. Our government has gotten away with doing it to chiropractors for years because they don’t have a common voice to protect themselves with. It results in lower compensation if they get away with it. Thanks Allen

  9. Monica Allen

    hey Allen,

    Hi, I was just telling my husband Don all about this web site. He is a truck driver and was just in awe of how they can just classifie you as unskilled. My first guess is wages? .36 cents a mile and it goes up from there. If they were to reclassify you guys. They probably would have to pay you guys more money. Why are drivers not payed minium wage? Does anyone know the answer? I mean if you look at. Some driving jobs are payed hourly. I guess it depends where you work or what kind of job you are doing. The OTR driver is classified as unskilled labor. That is just insane and I wish so much they would change it.

  10. Charles Hanna

    Thank You Allen !
    For all that you do for the DRIVERS in the trucking industry.
    I have been driving for 20 years , the problem of driver fatigue has to do with hours of service without pay .The increasing expectation to comply with trucking companies safety rules,shippers & receivers driver loading and unloading rules Federal ,State,County and City truck ordinances including roadside DOT inspections and unpaid miles for following mandatory truck routes.
    If you don’t do it ( FOR FREE ) You could be fined!
    The entire problem of driver fatigure is due to the demand that a driver be paid on a piece work or production bases but the legal liabilities required them to work like and hourly employee.
    The Goverments and Corporate American have taken the
    problems of the transportation service industry and made the drivers personaly legally liable to comply with laws at their own exspense.

    A professional driver renders hundreds of unpaid man hours a year in the pursuit of the trucks business interest and everything involved and surronding the truck.
    According to the National Industrial Safety Council truck driving is the 10th most dangerous job in the world and hourly paid drivers don’t even qualify for time and a half after forty hours
    Drivers are present and legally responsible for their work station 24/7 and live over the road at their own exspense.
    Fatigued drivers is due to corporate greed that has been successful by pushing legislation that squeezes free labor and service from drivers. If you don’t perform your DOT pretrip and oversee all the arrangments for neccesary repairs ( FOR FREE ) you could get fined.

    If you don’t drive 30 unpaid miles in the wrong
    direction to the nearest CAT scale to slide the fifth wheel and axles to get the weight legal ( FOR FREE ). YOU COULD GET FINED !
    The problem is Corporate America’s well orchestrated involvment in
    the solutions of the problems with the trucking industry.
    They took a large part of the cost and problems within the industry and made them the drivers personal legal and financial problems.
    So that corporations could profit and give out bigger salaries and bonuses to key personel. who’s greatest occupational hazard is getting a paper cut while sitting at their desk.

    Thats my rant.
    Again Allen Thank You So Much For All That You Do !
    Best Wishes To You and Your Family. God Bless
    Sincerely Charles Hanna

  11. Christie

    We are considered as unskilled labor right up until we have an accident, THEN and only then are they screaming that we’re professionals! Be it our fault or the fault of another person, WE were the professionals and WE should have……(fill in the blank.) Ok, I really had no point to make here so to speak, just my thoughts!

  12. jim mccarter

    Wow, what a great article Allen. Yes, unskilled is our classification but we all know the truth for sure. Not everyone can do this job and it seems the number of us that can do it well are dwindleing. Maybe some day we will be appreciated for what we do and how well we do it..

  13. Allen Smith

    This is just one more way to “control” drivers, only this time the control is hitting their wallets. When we brought this up with the FMCSA when we had our phone meeting with them, one of the people on the panel said they would look into this. I think the exact words were, ” truck drivers should be skilled labor, I’ll definitely look into this”

    The Driver shortage, the new CSA 2010 laws, unskilled labor, the driver training issues….lets get all this out in the open Thursday
    on the show 4/15/10

    Thank you for being such a big part in all these concerns and supporting us as much as you do
    Your commitment and dedication is appreciated by many in trucking
    Maybe you guys can write a song about all of it!!

  14. Mountainman

    The labor laws regarding trucking need to be changed. This will correct the economic abuse of the trucker. They must be paid hourly and with overtime. A big rig driver is a skilled profession and should demand $20 an hour plus overtime. If a carrier pushes him to work a 70 hour week so the corporation can profit off his labor, then they must give up some of their big profits and pay the driver what he deserves. 70 hours amounts to the performance of almost two full time jobs in one week!! Do the math:

    $20 x 40 hours = $800 regular pay
    $30 x 30 hours = $900 overtime pay

    This amounts to a weekly paycheck of $1,700. If one works two full time jobs in one week, how can it be justified to offer a compensation of only one week? It cannot. The laboring driver is abused at the enrichment of corporate America. If all the truckers went on strike, Congress would have no choice but to act for such an event would bring corporate America to its knees. Something must be done, otherwise the abuse will just continue.

    • Allen Smith

      Drivers are classified as “unSkilled labor” This is why low wages have been acceptable for so long. Add that to the recruiting ads that state you can make 50-60K your first year and you then have a churning of drivers…now called the “driver shortage”. In reality it’s people have who realized that the lifestyle, responsibility, and wages just don’t add up. Unless the wages are increased there will continue to be low retention of drivers, especially 1st year drivers.

    • Allen Smith

      What I find amazing is that drivers are fighting for MORE HOURS ( HOS regs) Company drivers should be fighting for higher wages and less hours. Owner Op’s are a different story when it relates to HOS. Cheap freight is more their issue along with poor business strategy.

  15. Mountainman

    Here’s a solution Allen. A “cents per mile” minimum wage standard for the CDL A trucking industry. I would calculate that 48 cents per mile should be the very minimum. All carriers would need to start all new unexperienced hires at this pay rate. 2500 weekly miles x 48 cents = $1200. It would take a 60 to 70 hour on duty work week to log in those miles would it not?. Therefore, a carrier MUST PAY FOR IT!! Otherwise, he’ll be paying the professional truck driver graduate close to a state’s minimum wage.

    $16 an hour x 40 hours = $640
    $24 an hour X 25 hours overtime = $600

    Total pay = $1240

    In my opinion, a fresh out of school professional big rig driver is worth AT LEAST, if not more, an hourly wage of $16.00 an hour and also deserves OT pay. Therefore, a minimum cents per mile standard should be enacted by Congress for this critical industry in order to remove the sweatshop mentality harbored by the many abusive carriers.

  16. Christy Kuppler

    Thank you for writing this article, Allen!! I have been complaining about this for a very long time!! Truckers ARE “skilled labor”!! Most companies are making their employees do quarterly safety training, there are defensive driving courses like “The Smith System”….we are constantly honing our skills. Very well written, Sir!

  17. […] is this unskilled classification that results in the continual low pay for CMV operators. Newcomers to the “profession” […]

  18. Robert

    Even in Canada we are unskilled labor and way under paid. There are companies here that pay 31 cents per loaded kilometer and this is their top rate. As well everyone is right we are called unskilled until we are involved in an incident then we are call professional. There is a driver shortage here as well and now these companies are hiring “drivers” from 3rd world countries that will work for these low wages.

  19. Ja Ja Kabaka

    Nowhere in your link U.S. Department of State and the Wage and Hour Division does it state anything about truck driving being skilled or unskilled labor. So where exactly did you get that piece of info?

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