By: Aubrey “Allen” Smith
Truck driver shortage to reach 400,000
The main stream media needs to listen to truck drivers before reporting on a nation-wide shortage of drivers. Reports of a truck driver shortage are now swelling to as high as 400,000 for 2011 and 2012. The cause of the shortage is being blamed on the slow economic recovery, tighter regulations on drivers and the impending CSA. Whatever the reasons, the catastrophic fear of a truck driver shortage always seems to appear every few years or so.
Shortage of truck drivers is industry made
Not that the main news outlets are really concerned with the truth about the truck driver shortage, let’s lay it out here anyway. As I first publicly exposed nearly five years ago, that there never has been, nor is there . . . a truck driver shortage. This shortage is a self-made fabrication, brought on by the industry itself, largely in part to continue the turning over of more experienced, higher paid drivers for the newer, inexperienced drivers at a lower pay scale . . . cheap labor.
The truck driver shortage myth has been thrown out there for years, mainly due to the ATA and their so-called studies. Debunking the shortage fabrication is actually very simple to do, by looking at three factors : freight rates, driver retention and driver pay.
Cheap freight kills Owner Operators
Freight rates have stagnated for years now. Coupled with the trucking company lease purchase scam, it has literally destroyed many of our nations’ owner operators. A true truck driver shortage would cause freight rates to go up, yet that has never been the case. The absence of any significant rise in freight rates would suggest the complete opposite of a truck driver shortage. Furthermore, if a true driver shortage existed, shippers would be facing the problem of finding trucks to transport their goods and stores would be having trouble keeping their shelves filled with products . . . neither of which has ever happened.
Driver pay forces drivers to quit
In the past, the ATA has used the industry’s turn-over rate as one reason for the truck driver shortage. The 2005, ATA commissioned study, The U.S. Truck Driver Shortage: Analysis and Forecasts, reported that driver pay is one of the main factors in the driver turn-over. Before the recession, driver turn-over had reached a whopping 128%, higher than any other industry. In the midst of the recession, this rate had dropped to 56% and eventually further to around 43%, with some estimates as low as 39%. Not because things had gotten better for drivers, but because there were and is still no jobs to go to. As freight begins to pick up and trucking companies step up their hiring process, the turn-over rate among drivers is once again beginning to rise. If and when the economy ever stabilizes, I can assure you that the turn-over rate will eventually rise again to its previous levels, yet we will still see no recognizable difference in driver pay rates offered by carriers. Again, there has been no significant increase in truck driver pay in decades, thus debunking any facts for a real driver shortage.
Motor carriers focus on hiring, not retention
Motor carriers focus so much of their time and effort on hiring drivers and fail to focus on the real problem of retaining truck drivers. Many of these companies have no interest in the retention of drivers. The more experienced the driver, the higher the pay demand. Cheap freight calls for cheap labor, thus the need for constant recruiting of the recent CDL school graduate. There is literally more money to be made from Government subsidies and grants than there is by transporting the cheap freight.
The Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Training Grants (20.235) for example, is a grant provided to persons who train current and future drivers in the safe operation of CMVs. It’s purpose is to promote the safe operation of Commercial Motor Vehicles, as defined in 49 U.S.C. 31301, through financial assistance. This particular grant is not available to individuals, only those who train individuals such as the CDL schools or trucking companies which have their own CDL training program. It is offered through the agency of the D.O.T. and office of the FMCSA and authorized through SAFETEA-LU. The amount of Grants range between $50,000 to $222,000.
If retention issues were really a cause for a driver shortage, driver wages would increase in order to retain the drivers. All the actions being carried out by these motor carriers are a complete opposite effect to actually stop the rate of turn-over among truck drivers, and in attracting and maintaining experienced drivers.
Add to the equation the lifestyle of long haul truckers: away from home, living in a truck, poor diet, lack of sleep and rest, forced dispatch, the CFR’s, HOS rules, DOT, the general public’s attitude, the closing of rest areas, disrespect by carriers, shippers and receivers, along with low pay and cheap freight . . . no wonder truck drivers move on to other vocations.
The industry may be able to fool the media, but truck drivers know the real truth.