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.