One of the most important issues to date is the pending effects that the soon government implemented CSA (formerly called CSA 2010) will have on the trucking industry. Many experts are anticipating a massive shortage of truck drivers within the next few years. Supposedly, many drivers will be leaving the trucking industry because of their undesirable CSA BASIC scores, leaving a void of drivers. Also, seasoned veteran drivers are said to be getting older and retiring which is also being leading up to more drivers in demand. Finally, many veteran drivers have been starved out to be replaced by newer, lower paid CDL graduates.
Is it really just the implementing of CSA that’s created the shortage, or is there more to it? After all, there have been thousands of CDL training schools throughout the country and carriers have had training programs and schools in operation for a number of years, so the question remains,
“Why will there be a shortage?” Where have all the CDL school graduates gone?
There are a variety of reasons that drivers are leaving the industry, but theoretically, with the amount of people who have entered into trucking, there should be an abundance of drivers replacing those who leave.
The fact is however, those entering the industry, starting from CDL training schools and then to company training programs, have a very high failure rate for their first year. Here are some of the reasons:
1 Poor Career Recruiting Tactics Many people enter the industry without the real knowledge of a trucking lifestyle. Many recruiting ads advertise great pay, benefits, freedom on the road, no boss, etc… After a very pricey 3 or 4 week training school program (which many fail or leave) they begin their company training. It isn’t long before they realize that the many weeks spent over the road, the very low pay ( as low as 12cpm for new drivers), harsh treatment, long hours, lack of parking, shippers and receivers not keeping appointment times, etc…just wasn’t the life it was cracked up to be.
Solution: Both school and company recruiters need to explain the lifestyle more realistically, explaining what to expect after they graduate including the pay scale for their first year. ( which is as low as 12/cpm) Those ads saying “Make as much as a college graduate” just don’t cut it… Or how about the ones saying, “You can be a truck driver in weeks with very little training.” Really? Driving 80,000 LBS, keeping up with HOS and CSA laws, and maintaining all your paper work doesn’t take much training?
There needs to be guidelines put into place, preferably by the trucking industry itself, with a list of statements and questions to ask future students. The “if you don’t ask we won’t offer the info” is not acceptable.
2 Poor Advice given to CDL School Applicants- It is not uncommon for a CDL applicant to tell the school that they either have a past felony or DUI and they are then advised “not to put it down” on the application. This is one of the most common complaints we get.
People have actually been hired upon graduation and then pulled off the truck because the background check found out about it. Some even tell the company that they were told by the school not to disclose the information, but it does not matter! The school still gets paid and now the graduate is stuck with a bill and a useless CDL.
Solution: Disclosure to be signed by student which states that if they do not answer truthfully TO ANY QUESTION their is a very high chance that the false information will be found out and they will no longer be eligible for hire upon graduating. School also needs to sign stating they have informed the applicant to answer all questions truthfully.
3 Government Grants and Programs – These programs are designed to create jobs by offering new skills to people. The problem is, the CDL schools target these government agency “vouchers” ($$) and not question the persons qualifications who is to be trained. The next part of the problem is that the agencies, many times know nothing about the lifestyle of trucking or the additional requirements that trucking companies place on drivers to be hired. The schools do know the truth about the extra requirements that companies are searching for, but will not divulge that information for fear that the agencies will start “screening” their applicants more thoroughly and then not send the prospective students….thus….NO GOVERNMENT MONEY.
Solution: The agencies should be required to do a complete background and medical check and then match it with carrier and government requirements to ensure there is no reason not to be hired upon graduating. This should be done before they give money to prospective students and CDL schools. Also the agencies should understand the lifestyle of trucking and make sure the applicant understands what he/she can expect.
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. Its 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.
Guidelines and laws must be added to these grants if this program is to continue!!
Here is an example of a reputable school and how they handled a situation.
Recently we had been contacted by a gentleman who graduated from a truck driving school in Orange Park, Fl Oct 8th. He was born deaf and has limited speech, but with hearing aids can pass the hearing part of the DOT physical. The government agency sent him to a CDL training school in Orange Park, FL called National Training Truck Driver School. We would like to note that this school, along with his personal advisor Tal Miller, went above and beyond the call of duty for this man. They explained to him that it would be very difficult for him to be hired. Being passionate about the desire to drive a truck, he signed a paper acknowledging that it would be difficult to get hired but wanted to go forth with the training anyway.
The school is working, along with many others, to find him a company willing to train him. The school told us that he is a phenomenal driver with natural abilities. We are in also in the process of making numerous phone calls to try and give this man a chance at a career in trucking.
NOTE: There are many schools that knowingly take students without considering or revealing to the student that they may have a poor chance in getting hired, for whatever the reason.
4 Poor CDL company Training Programs Need standards—Many of the trucking CDL training programs, the way have been set up, are designed for failure. The programs appear to be designed for one purpose: Move freight cheaply. Most hires do not last a year, either because of the low pay, little home time, poor treatment, or a combination of all 3.
The carriers have learned to churn these new hires over and over, thus maintaining the low pay scale. These companies also receive tax breaks and government incentives for hiring new CDL graduates, so keeping the turnover rate going is a win –win for them. Many times the trainers themselves have only been driving 6 months, with very little “trainer” training themselves.
Sexual harassment alone has significantly stifled women succeeding in these training programs. The recruitment of women has increased to 20% while the % of women in trucking has not increased in the past few years and stays at 6%. Why? Retaining the driver for extended lengths of time has not been a part of the “bottom line” company plan or strategy.
Solution: Regulations and standards for CDL training.
The truth is that CSA is not the only reason that the trucking industry is in danger of having a truck driver shortage. It’s their own cunning and scheming ways that have caused the possible driver shortage crisis. By creating a false driver shortage through the years and by starving out their good veteran drivers, they have kept wages down for drivers and maintained a consistent churning of new drivers, thus the existence of veteran drivers keeps decreasing.
SO there you have it!
Honest recruiting and create rules, laws and guidelines for CDL training which are designed to retain drivers rather than create high turnovers rates and churning of new drivers. Now add to that better treatment and higher wages, and you just might not have a truck driver shortage.
© 2010, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.