What has always been termed as a truck driver shortage, is now being referred to as a shortage of qualified drivers. It is a manipulation of words in order to achieve the success of a particular agenda. A shortage of truck drivers has never existed, nor does it exist today. So what is the agenda this time and what exactly does “qualified” mean?
Whenever there is a shortage within any kind of vocation, pay normally will rise in order to offset the shortage. Truck driver pay continues to remain stagnate and has virtually remained the same for decades.
While looking through a 1993 edition of Overdrive Magazine, a company was advertising starting pay at .38 cents per mile. I checked out their website today, in 2011 and they are showing their starting pay at .38 CPM. In 18 years, their beginning pay has not changed. To claim that there is a truck driver shortage, with no pay increase incentive ever being enacted, is a contradictory of terms.
Regulations push drivers away
As a series of new rules and regulations are imposed by the FMCSA such as the CSA, PSP’s, EOBR’s, HOS rule changes and the possibility of OBMS’s, truckers have never been more regulated and many seasoned, veteran drivers are calling it quits. Still, thousands of unemployed workers are turning to trucking as a career after being told by company recruiters and CDL schools that they can make $50,000 per year. During a time of a lengthy recession, when millions have lost their jobs, the promise of a high-paying career is hard to ignore. Too many are lured into an industry which averages $32,000 per year for an experienced driver and are never told about the true realities of OTR trucking.
Moving away from a negative term of a truck driver shortage, the trucking industry is now using “qualified” as their chosen word. This new terminology has been brought about due to the CSA. Qualified now stands for a driver who has no crash or serious violation history, reference the PSP (Pre-Employment Screening Program). For years, professional truck drivers have been pushed by their company to get the load picked up and delivered. Violate HOS rules, run double logs, average 3-5 hours of sleep per day . . . do whatever it takes to move the freight; and the drivers’ got the job done. Now, these same drivers are being terminated by the very companies that pushed them into this performance.
Many trucking companies with these drivers who have accumulated violation points for doing what they were told, are being terminated and replaced with new drivers. Through the CSA, these new truck drivers will not have a three and five year look back, no points or violations on their driving records and this gives the illusion of a better BASIC safety score for the motor carrier. In this industry, never believe that there is any loyalty from the company to its drivers.
NAFTA is best alternative to lower pay
Could there be another agenda as to why NAFTA is being pushed so hard by the industry? It is well known that before an industry can recruit and hire those with H2-B visas to work in the United States, that the industry must show that there is a need for these new workers. Among the requirements, an industry must:
- Establish that its need for the prospective worker’s services or labor is temporary, regardless of whether the underlying job can be described as permanent or temporary;
- Must demonstrate that there are not sufficient U. S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work and . . .
- Must show that the employment of H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U. S. workers
The Comprehensive Safety Analysis provides the trucking industry with the reason it needs to use the term “shortage of qualified drivers“. Experienced American drivers who are now being pushed out by the motor carriers who allowed them to run illegal in the first place, can now say that they can not find qualified drivers; “qualified” as it pertains to the CSA.
Forcing out experienced, seasoned long haul truck drivers who demand a higher pay scale and replacing them with foreign drivers who will accept lower wages . . . this is the agenda of the industry. If the fear of a lack of qualified drivers were true, then why is the industry not restructuring their CDL training programs in order to produce safer drivers? Why is the FMCSA not addressing the CDL training problem? To create safer highways, you must produce safer drivers. If the industry was really concerned about a shortage of qualified truck drivers in the U. S. , then CDL training standards would be implemented.
The terrible tragedy which involved the CRST truck in Wyoming is only a reminder of the poor truck driver training standards that exist in this country. Blame can not be placed on the CRST trainer who was sleeping in the bunk at the time of the crash. When a person is fatigued and tired, the body must sleep. One can only go so long before the body will shut down on its own. The problem is not with the trainer, but with the training standards of the particular motor carrier, which is established by the industry.
There are starter companies which will allow a driver to become a trainer with as little as three to six months experience, yet the FMCSA ignores this serious safety issue. Through out the statistics found in the Trucks Involved in Fatal Accidents file (TIFA), there are no stats correlating fatal truck crashes associated with new driver trainees. There should be.
Standards must be established to where the trainer and student remain awake and active together during the entire training process. Both trainee and trainer must be allowed to stop and sleep during the same period of time.
The trucking industry, for too long, has treated drivers like they themselves were machines. A driver trainer has a larger degree of mental and physical responsibility placed on them and when the body reaches it maximum capability, the trainer will have no other option but to sleep and receive the rest needed.
Regardless of the fact that many trainees and trainers make it through the process without incident, the tragedy in Wyoming is a reminder that one senseless death is one too many and that these types of accidents will continue until stronger CDL training standards are established within the industry and safety becomes the true agenda.