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Where have all the Qualified Truck Drivers gone?


Donna Smith

The trucking industry appears to be in a panic claiming there is a shortage of qualified truck drivers. For years we’ve heard the claim, “Truck Driver Shortage,”  that’s nothing new, but  what does this new phrase  mean exactly, “shortage of qualified drivers”?

First let me say that in the past there never was a trucking industry driver shortage but rather a truck driver retention problem. The turnover rate for drivers at one time was up to 128%. The truck driver shortage was a myth created by the industry as a means to actively bring more people into the industry as a way to keep driver pay down.  The illusion of a truck driver shortage had people flocking into trucking with all sorts of hope and expectations, only to discover that the recruiting tactics and promises that were made about a career in trucking ( pay, home time, expected miles, lifestyle, etc…) was not a true picture to say the least, so they either left the industry or hopped from company to company, hoping they’d find a good one to stay with. Some did, many didn’t.

Now, prior to the new FMCSA government regulations of CSA 2010, which is shortly going to be in full enforcement, a driver was considered to be qualified based upon driving record, credit report, DMV report, and DAC report.  Not so anymore. Now there’s the PSP, (Pre-Employment Screening), which is a 3 and 5 year look back of a drivers last years of DOT inspections for violations and reportable crashes.  Here’s where the “qualified driver” term is now an industry issue. Since companies are now going to be held accountable for a drivers violations and crash incidents, the information on the driver PSP is being used as an indicator for how they will perform as a new hire.

Although this past information is not inherited by the new employer, the employer will use it to as a means to measure and determine the future driving behavior of the applicant driver.   Also, even though there is “no driver score” given to a driver from the FMCSA, third party companies are creating programs which will analyze a drivers PSP information and then actually create a driver score from the data.  Since a driver’s violations while employed with a carrier will now directly affect the carrier BASIC score, precaution of hiring quality drivers with few violations is a must for the company.

So why is there a shortage of qualified drivers now and not before CSA? Because the ways of the trucking industry have caught up with everyone. Both greedy companies and risk taking drivers are paying for their previous actions. A drivers violations will affect a carrier’s score while the driver is employed by that carrier, even if the driver is terminated.  The driver also carries around these violations on their PSP when seeking new employment.

So who then is now considered to be qualified? ( or not qualified)

1– Many times, companies  in the past have ignored warnings from the driver about either faulty equipment or that they were unable to take a load because they were going to run out of hours and were at risk for HOS violation. Even with these warnings, drivers have been pushed to violate HOS and were caught, receiving a violation. Also they would be urged to run with faulty equipment, many times being caught at a DOT inspection, receiving a violation.  But why would a driver do all this and risk getting a violation? Simple, fear of retaliatory actions. How many times has a driver refused to meet company requests (demands) and find him or herself sitting without miles for quite awhile?  Worse yet,  fear of being terminated with a black mark on their DAC report?  So now these drivers stand, company compliant for years, with violations on their record…. NOT QUALIFIED.

Ironically, the drivers who would refuse to risk their careers and address whatever consequences their employer had in store for them, are actually the drivers that companies are now seeking.  Instead of being labeled “difficult”, they are now being considered “qualified” because their PSP is pristine.  VERY QUALIFIED.

2– Outlaw drivers with no regard for safety including speeding, HOS violations, and just dangerous driving violations. NOT QUALIFIED.

3– Drivers who have received violations trying to compensate for their low wages and lost waiting time would take excessive risks in order to achieve more miles, many times in violation of HOS, speeding, and dangerous driving habits.  NOT QUALIFIED

4– Drivers working for ethical companies who pay appropriate wages and treat them with respect, rewarding them for safety and not expecting them to take risks which would end up in a possible violation.  VERY QUALIFIED, and they’re probably not looking to go anywhere else. These companies most likely have high driver retention as well as properly maintained equipment.

Many within the industry claim that the reason there is a shortage of qualified drivers is due to the fact that the “good” veteran drivers are retiring. What? That doesn’t make sense. You mean with all the CDL training schools and company training programs, there aren’t enough qualified drivers being introduced into the industry? Could there be a problem with CDL training which is preventing people from being considered as good qualified drivers?

The answer is….  CDL training is and has been a problem, and the effects are going to get worse if not addressed.

Many programs were initially designed to bring in hires at a low pay wage, to move freight at a cheap rate, and to receive whatever government incentives from the hire of trainees.  Also,the poor recruiting tactics to get people into the industry,the unfulfilled promises, and poor treatment has led to high failure rates for new drivers.  Many CDL training programs have not been designed to develop and retain good safe drivers, but rather to maintain a constant flow of new hires on the lower end of the pay scale.  This design would eventually lead to a shortage of good drivers, but with CSA being implemented, it is now creating a shortage of violation and crash free “qualified” drivers, something that carriers are desperately seeking in order to survive as a respectable carrier.

Very often a driver can  become a company trainer ( receiving higher pay) with as little as 3- 6 months driving experience . Little or no additional background checks are conducted to determine if these folks are “trainer material.”  Limited training of the trainers has in the past also not been a major part of company procedure. Do you think think that all this is a well researched attempt when trying to create more qualified drivers?

Again, the training programs were often  designed to  acquire low paid drivers to move freight cheaply, receive more government incentives, and then replace them when they fail with more of the same hires, not to create and retain quality drivers ( at higher pay) This design will not work for post CSA time. There needs to be a complete overhaul of the CDL training programs if we are to see any hope of more qualified CDL truck drivers. Programs designed for real training, hiring and retention must replace the hiring and churning of trainees.

Next, attempts by trucking companies to keep these properly trained new drivers must be made. Long gone are the days of disregard, poor treatment, low pay, and disrespect.  Retention must replace turnover.

Finally, recruiting people both into the industry  and for employment purposes must be made with a higher level of honesty and transparency.  Many people are not meant to be in trucking and need to know what exactly to expect and what the lifestyle is like, thus lowering the failure rate for many new drivers entering while at the same time increasing the potential success rate for future qualified drivers.  Matching drivers up with companies that are in line with their personal needs will improve the driver trust factor and will result in higher driver retention,  reducing  job hopping or worse yet, people just leaving the industry altogether.

Let’s not forget better wages for quality drivers who are now in demand. You need quality, then the time has come to pay for it. A genuine attempt will need to be made by  recruiters, training companies, and carriers in order to create and retain the new “qualified CDL driver.”

For all you drivers out there with clean records and great PSP’s….it’s your time to reap the rewards….you’re in demand…you are qualified.

© 2010, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.

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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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12 Responses to Where have all the Qualified Truck Drivers gone?. - Post a Comment

  1. ALAN


  2. Owen Edwards

    Please understand that my experience and memories bring me to explain that “driver retention” can, does, has, and will mean or equate to death. May no harm come to those drivers in compliance as well as those non-compliant. Victums can amount to you and I. Thank you for reading this and in advance for your reply.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Martell Thornton, Ray Lawson. Ray Lawson said: RT @truckerapp: Where have all the Qualified Truck Drivers gone? By Donna Smith. // Very good artical […]

  4. james

    I am a member of the public who has tried for 2+ years to become a trucker. But, because i have been unemployed, those who are in charge of government funding which could pay for tuition refuse to allow me to become trained until I obtain an letter of intent to hire from a trucking trucking company.
    The government and the trucking companies refuse to take into account my prior lifelong experience in driving local delivery trucks in LA, Ca or even my clean driving record,
    I have been warned away from those trucking company driving schools which would hire me after I completed there course because (according to the trucking boards) I would be stuck with the tuition without any income from driving to pay for it.
    So here I am stilling seeking to work in the trucking field,but I am shut out by the government and the high costs of training.
    After reading many articles about how trucking schools are paid by the government to train and hire these new drivers for six months while receiving subsidies for that period, then dumping them for new drivers, I understand the system much better.
    As a experienced businessman who predicted the need for truck drivers this year, I am disappointed that those responsible for hiring failed to see this need for drivers coming.
    The window of opportunity has passed for new drivers and will not open anytime soon. (because of the recession and upcoming government regulation)So,unless there arises a farsighted leader in this field of employment who will create opportunities for training new drivers (without government intervention or subsidies)who will be available when the next driving shortage occurs,this shortage will arise again and again.

  5. Jim McCarter

    This is by far the best explantion ever written. It’s always been a sham to beat us drivers out of fair compensation and a false hope to those wishing to enter the field. In the past it has always been a never ending revolving door which has now slowed down to the point that the truck driving schools and training companies are running out of “victims” to replenish their slew of steering wheel holders. I agree with the part about “pay up” because in the long run that is what they will have to do.
    Now we have to wonder about all the good drivers who have left this industry due to low morale for a period of time which will require them to be put back through the training process. Will veteran drivers who have been off work for over 1-2 years have to be retrained by a 3 month so-called trainer? If so, I doubt many of them will return.
    Anyway, great work and a fantastic article!

  6. Allen Smith

    This email came in less than an hour ago and Allen is now writing a blog post about it.
    The carriers are crying how they can’t find qualified drivers and then they pull this. Total disregard for for the lives of these people. Not even a ticket back home!!


    Hi Allen

    Thanks for your info.I am currently looking for work as a driver. I am 52 with over 30 years experience and a perfectly clean driving record. I have fallen prey to the scam of 2 carriers that promise you a job and send you far away to their home terminal for “orientation”. That brings to mind showing you the companies’ policies and procedures. Getting you familiar with their equipment and issuing your fuel card,keys, etc. However, I found
    this to be an out and out lie!
    The “orientation” to the new job turned out to be a fine screening of individuals to get only a certain type of individual. All others were literally turned out on their ear! Those with a
    paid bus ticket to the facility found they had no where to stay and no way to get back home, all without warning. Why do they tell you orientation, when they in fact are still screening applicants at that point? Why can’t they tell from your driving record and application alone if they want to hire
    you? Also, why does it take weeks for them to make any kind of decision.
    We are starving while we wait for the phone to ring each day. This is
    really crazy! If there are really companies out there that still value experience, safety, responsibility and clean driving record why can’t I find them?
    Where or who are they? I am available now so who do I apply to? Thanks for all you do for all of us.

  7. Tanya Bons

    The industry is filled with problems. For starters, CDL schools need to teach more than how to pass the test. I have been in the CDL school industry for 4 years and I know many schools have a goal of getting their students to pass the tests. Their future journey is not an issue, just get them to pass. This is not right. It puts all of us in danger of our lives. Trucks should be driven by people that are confident and safe, not people that can pass the CDL test.

    As far as employment, these companies have to change. It is time they realize they are hiring real people with the need to support their families. Many OTR companies take advantage of their employees and it is time this stops. I hope the CSA2010 regulations enforce the ethical treatment of truck drivers. Truck drivers are a necessity for economic growth and it is time the big companies treat their employees with the respect they deserve.

    I am in the process of re-entering the CDL training industry and I want to make a change. I want my students to be able to drive, not to just pass the CDL test. I want my recruiters to hire students for the journey, not just the moment. I want companies to make a change, give these hard working men and woman what they deserve; a good solid job where they don’t have to break laws to make a living, safe reliable trucks, and pay equal to the hours and dedication these drivers pursue.

    We need to ban together to make a difference – to live in the journey, not the destination.

    Live in the Journey!
    Tanya Bons

  8. TruckerDesiree

    Tonight I met some new students who are fresh from the CDL Mills, one has had to come bunk in my room because her roommate was stealing her things.

    It sounded like OCD or some sort of hoarding behavior. One female student took the other female students toilitries and filled up all her bottles with them, then she went to the office to ask for several trash bags and began putting chips in them. She had a collection of used cups and when the other student asked if she could throw them in the trash the other gal refused became agitated and said she needed them.

    Later the girl took the other gal’s paperwork and hid it under her bed. They had a confrontation. It was not mean spirited theft, it was like collecting, in fact money was left untouched, it was just “stuff” she was after.

    The girl is delayed to go with a trainer for a mediacl hold, I suspect she is not taking some sort of medication right now.

    Another story out today is of a male student who shouted out to a lady student that he wanted to have anal sex with her. He shouted at her in front of a group of people and later started shouting at others about his sexual orientation.

    Thankfully, he was sent home before a trainer gets stuck with him on their truck.

    These are fresh RECRUITS who are either paid for by the US Government or have got themselves a loan.

    A few weeks ago there was a story about a student that was in the news, Idaho I believe, where the student went OFF his anti psychotics during training and flipped out on the trainer. The troopers had to throw down spike strips after he took off with the truck without his trainer.

    My company has been sent these new recruits sight unseen and I am curious if someone from their CDL schools told these people to go off their medications?

    This is why qualified trainers end up quitting, because they are given unqualified students from head hunter recruiters.

    We need to start tracking these CDL Diploma schools who do this.

  9. Tanya Bons

    Some of these CDL training horror stories are the schools, some are the students and some are actually the DOT doctors. I had a student that passed his DOT physical and came to my course and it wasn’t till after wards, when he graduated, that we found out he could not pass the DOT physical at the company he went to work for. When we looked into it, it was found that he was prone to seizures. The paperwork at the DOT office had this noted. They apologized – nice.

    Doctors that are tired, don’t know the laws, try to get around the system or just don’t care can be making fatal mistakes and choices.

    Desperate people do make bad decisions under pressure and it is possible that these students were told, at some point, that their drugs would not pass DOT physicals so they dumped them. It could be by a school’s suggestion, I don’t know, but a school would have to be very irresponsible and money hungry to do that. Again, not every school is looking out for their student or the people that will be on the road with their students.

    Everyone is subjected to these issues. There are some monitoring systems, the Secretary of State in Illinois has been known to shut down several schools for not meeting requirements, but there are also Illinois college board schools which monitor themselves. I have never heard of any college shutting down their own CDL training program.

    We need more monitoring of college run programs and stricter monitoring over private schools throughout the country.

    I am proud to have previously worked with the Illinois SOS and I am looking forward to working with them in the future. I wish all states monitored their CDL schools as closely as Illinois. There are tons of schools that shouldn’t be functioning.

    Students need to visit several schools, do some online research and ask questions. Schools that don’t have appropriate answers or omit promises from their paperwork may not be ethical.

    Schools need to be aware that not everyone is meant to be a truck driver, even if they want to be.

    Companies need to evaluate potential hires before they bring the folks down for an orientation. I have seen several students get excited, turn down other companies and attend an orientation where they were promptly let go for reasons that were listed on applications they completed before enrolling in school.

    The system is a mess, desperate people needing jobs, companies taking advantage of desperate people, I don’t know what to say all I can do is promise to do the best I can.

    Live in the Journey,
    Tanya Bons

  10. […] my last related post, about potential for CSA 2010 to ripple into the area of driver pay. A related post likewise at Allen & Donna Smith’s is well worth the read. Allen Smith,Channel 19,Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010,CSA 2010 […]

  11. buster

    Driver stay away from trucking its corrupt and ran and controlled by the govt. We have all of these rules and regulations and the pay is very low. Don’t believe the hype about good money I’ve been out here 12 years and the pay has went way down. This madness want stop until we get these evil liberals out of office. Please vote people !

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