For the first quarter of 2012, the truck driver turnover rate has climbed to 90% which reflects a 51% increase since the same time period from 2010. Motor carriers are once again being reported as “scrambling” for qualified CDL truck drivers, due largely in part by new safety regulations that include the publishing of motor carrier and individual driver safety records.
The publishing of these records have caused motor carriers to add stricter hiring guidelines for drivers, seeking out those drivers with higher safety ratings. This, coupled with older veteran drivers retiring and competing with more lifestyle-friendly blue-collar industries, all add to the growing truck driver shortage . . . or does it?
Most veteran drivers have long contended that there is no truck driver shortage and there never has been; an issue that I have written and discussed many times over the past five years as well. Yet, the continual media coverage and on-going discussions still allude to this issue as a real problem and not that the truck driver shortage is actually a self-induced problem created by the trucking industry itself.
Even now, the industry continues to establish “new” programs to help fight the truck driver shortage, but these programs are not “new” at all. They have been used over and over for years and still, a “driver shortage” remains. Some of these “new” programs include:
- Offering higher Safety Bonuses
- Providing Referral Bonuses to drivers
- Increasing advertising budget
- Increasing their Recruitment Campaign
- Advertising driver pay as $50,000 to $60,000 per year
These programs have been in use for decades and do not provide real solutions to the so-called truck driver shortage. For example, nothing is ever acted upon concerning the fact that there is a 200% turnover rate for first year drivers.
Furthermore, due to other deceitful practices such as the “starving out” process and the trucking company owner operator lease programs and the truck driver DAC report, motor carriers can continue with the same “new” programs as in the past and never provide real solutions to the so-called truck driver shortage.
Safety bonuses mean nothing if the driver receives poor miles and is forced to leave employment; referral bonuses largely lead to drivers referring other drivers to the company only for the sake of receiving a referral check and not because it is a good company to work for; increasing the advertising budget is meaningless if the advertising continues to provide false expectations; increasing the recruiting campaign will fall short if there is no action taken to increase retention among drivers and falsely advertising $50,000 to $60,000 per year income will only bring in new drivers for a short time, until they realize their average pay is running between $27,000 to $35,000 per year.
Adding to the lack of incoming “qualified” drivers finally rests with the issue of poor CDL truck driver training. It is often advertised that professional truck driving is an easy job to train for, yet CDL training cost can range from $4000 to $6000 on average and enormous responsibilities are placed on the driver. Along with these responsibilities, the driver is not properly compensated for many of their duties.
How can we expect the general public to believe that the trucking industry is serious about safety when it is allowed:
- CDL training schools advertise three to four weeks for training
- New drivers hauling hazardous materials are shown a five minute video and then handed their HazMat Certification
- Drivers are expected to receive no compensation for their work and time at shippers and receivers
- Unsafe set speed limit laws that differ for automobiles and large trucks which can often lead to unsafe driving conditions
- An increase of non-qualified illegal aliens continue to be allowed to operate on U.S. interstates and highways
- Lack of safe rest areas and parking facilities
- Allowing drivers with as little as six months experience to become driver trainers
The U.S. trucking industry has many problems that have not been faced for decades. This on-going truck driver shortage issue is becoming rather bothersome due to the fact that the industry itself has and continues to create the problem. The same “talk” goes on with no real solutions to the problem.
Here are a few solutions offered that can end this “truck driver shortage” crisis if the industry is willing to do so:
- Treat drivers with respect and professionalism and do away with the “unskilled labor” classification
- Give the driver the legal number of miles that can be run and do so EVERY WEEK
- Compensate the driver for all work and time, including waiting, loading, unloading and dock work
- Honor the drivers’ request for home time . . . EVERY TIME
- If you advertise $50,000 per year . . . then pay them $50,000 per year
- Focus more on RETENTION and less on RECRUITING
- Establish a Certified Driver Trainer Program
- Establish separate guideline procedures with a crisis hotline call-in number for both male and female student drivers
- Provide your drivers with an APU, help to defray costs to your owner operators
- Re-establish “liveable” freight rates (You’re in charge, not the shippers or receivers)
- Operate completely and legally within the guidelines of the FMCSA regulations
- STOP waking up drivers when they are on their breaks
- STOP pushing drivers beyond the legal HOS regulations
- STOP starving out drivers
- STOP retaliating against drivers through the use of the DAC
- STOP forcing drivers to sit when they legally refuse a load
- STOP using CDL graduates as cheap labor, paying as little as .25 cents per mile
- STOP punishing drivers for using YOUR unsafe equipment
- STOP over-promising during the driver recruitment process
- Realize that the profit and loss of your company is largely dependent on your drivers
I could go on and on but will end it there. There are many problems within the trucking industry and nearly all are brought about by the treatment of drivers by the motor carrier.
The majority of trucking companies will hire drivers who will work the cheapest, yet they expect them to act professionally and take care of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and freight, as well as wanting to continue in a truck driving career.
Motor carriers can easily end this so-called truck driver shortage by simply being willing to pay for the drivers’ services, compensating them for their worth and treating them with professional respect and stop using cheap recruiting tactics to pull in the next “victim.”
© 2012, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.