Driver shortage: Many are called, fewer are chosen

| September 02, 2013

Part 1 in this series, “Countdown to a capacity crunch, and a boost in rates?”, looked at data showing a disconnect between capacity and driver demand. Find it here.


FUELING DRIVER DEMAND. These key factors are creating a demand for nearly 100,000 new drivers each year over the coming decade as experienced drivers reach retirement age and trucking continues to grow, says the American Trucking Associations.

FUELING DRIVER DEMAND | These key factors are creating a demand for nearly 100,000 new drivers each year over the coming decade as experienced drivers reach retirement age and trucking continues to grow, says the American Trucking Associations.

The last capacity crunch, roughly 2004-08, is considered to have been a great time for the industry by some participants.

Steve Williams, chief executive officer of Maverick USA, looks no further than his bottom line to know that the balance of transportation supply and demand again has shifted in favor of carriers, even if it’s not a repeat of 2004.

“The capacity shortage is very real,” says Williams, a former chairman of the American Trucking Associations. “But now I’ve got more business than I have drivers. The name of the game from here on out is recruiting, training and retention.”

Why do so many carriers continue to experience difficulty finding new drivers?

Why do carriers have difficulty finding new drivers

Among the 1,344 respondents to the above poll, more than 100 readers submitted comments, including these:

Wade: Carriers with solid business models and management are not struggling to find drivers. Carriers with weak business models and weak management teams make excuses instead of positive changes.

JW: If they are going to be regulating by the hour, then they need to begin paying by the hour … multiplied by 70 to 80 hours a week. I am finally getting back into trucking after a four-year leave and can honestly say it is out of control. I was a fuel desk cashier for the past six months, and it amazed me the quality of drivers being hired these days!

Jrs2slow: If you got into trucking and thought you were only going to work 40 or even 50 hours a week, it’s time to think again. And after 27 years of driving both OTR and local and seeing what is happening with drivers and companies, I knew it was only a matter of time before the government dropped the boom on everyone, and that is what they have done.

Bob Moore: [The driver shortage] is due to FMCSA changing the rules (HOS) without knowing much about trucking. Our pay rates not increasing much over the years doesn’t help much. Also, companies treating drivers like we are a dime a dozen has caused a lot of the problems.

Lowridin Truck Drivin: I think a lot of it has to do with these “starter companies.” While they’re great at helping new drivers get a start, they’re like puppy mills, churning out drivers with no plan for retention. That’s why most new drivers don’t make it past six months with their first company. They feel abused and left hung out to dry. 

Fred Flintstone AKA Big Al P: First off, the trainers are not from the OLD SCHOOL and have no idea what makes a Professional Truck Driver. Today we have Steering Wheel Holders! Trainers are not from the old school where we had time to help one another.

Martymarsh: I worked for a guy that had seven trucks, and he said that there is only one secret to keeping drivers: Tell them what you are going to pay them, and then pay them. In the three years I was there, he didn’t need to hire any drivers. I would still be there if he hadn’t sold the business.

Maverick, a longtime flatbed carrier that has expanded by adding specialized glass and refrigerated divisions, is “almost back” to its pre-recession seated truck count.

Williams calls 2012’s turnover “normal” at 58 percent, which is well below the industry average for large truckload carriers – typically about 100 percent. Maverick also grew by 250 trucks, its best total for a year without an acquisition. Along with financial and safety performances that were “stellar,” the year was the company’s best ever for recruiting, he says.

By this summer, the fleet was reduced by 105 trucks, while turnover was up slightly. However, recruiting statistics are “unbelievably different,” as Williams details.

Year-to-date in 2012: 16,316 leads processed, with 674 drivers hired; YTD 2013: 30,210 leads – or nearly double 2012’s to-date total – yet only 559 hires, or 115 fewer.

“Frequency is up,” he says. “More leads and more apps, but we’re rejecting an unprecedented number for one reason or another.”

Williams points out that Maverick is particularly cautious in its hires: The process includes hair follicle testing and sleep apnea screening. But Williams and Maverick have long advocated strict driver qualifications: Now other carriers must think twice, in the CSA environment, about looking the other way when it comes to new hires with spotty driving records.

“It’s time to continue to make it difficult to get in this industry and stay in this industry,” he says. “If you can’t cut it, get out.”

Given that the economy has not been robust, Williams says the growing supply/demand imbalance is capacity-driven.

“When we have little spot surges, like we’ve had in building materials, there are no trucks to haul it,” he says. But a sustained shortage of equipment – one that will allow carriers to set consistently higher prices – has yet to emerge.

“There’s a solution – pay drivers more money,” Williams says. “That attracts better talent. But you can’t have just one shipper that sees the light and gives you more money. You’ve got to have all the shippers see the light so you can raise your rates across all your lanes.” 

Plan B: No experience required
For many carriers, a new driver is preferable to an experienced driver with bad habits, especially one with the bad driving history to prove it.

Lou Spoonhour, president of DriveCo and a former chairman of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association, says it’s about time for such a shift.

“I’ve been at this for 34 years, and we’re hearing from trucking companies that I’ve never heard the names of before,” Spoonhour says. “All of a sudden, entry-level is opening up as if it’s a brand-new field.”

“There’s a solution – pay drivers more money…. That attracts better talent. But you can’t have just one shipper that sees the light and gives you more money.” –Maverick’s Steve Williams on difficulty raising rates

Most CVTA schools also have regular, direct contact with carrier safety departments to stay up to date with hiring criteria.

“Sometimes the experienced driver is set in his ways, whereas a student is a clean slate and can be molded,” Spoonhour says. “That’s what we claim to be our advantage – they’re coming out with no extra baggage.” Typically, driving school graduates will go on to a carrier’s finishing school for more advanced training.

The average student age is “probably 35 to 40, where it used to be 28 to 33,” Spoonhour said. “We’ve started to get an increase in skilled workers, like electricians, carpenters, plumbers who made a living in the construction trades. We’ve found that trucking is a good option for ‘hands-on’ people. Or they have friends or relatives who drive.”

Students also see truck driving as a lasting opportunity that won’t be shipped overseas, Spoonhour says.

In order to maintain a 95 percent placement rate for its 200 to 300 students each year, DriveCo screens extensively. Students have to be able to pass a physical and a drug screen, and they’re subject to random drug tests while in school. Additionally, the school checks the prospective student’s driving record and criminal history. Pre-enrollment interviews are designed to make sure the students understand trucking and that the business will be a good fit with their personal goals.


Stay tuned for the Wednesday, Sept. 4, final installment in the series, with four driving veterans’ views on who’s taking the wheel today. 

  • Guest

    Williams says “if we cant cut it get OUT”???
    Who does he think HE is?? A desk jockey??
    What does HE drive??? He furthers the utter DISRESPECT
    and CONTEMPT that executives have Always shown for
    their slaveboy punks (employees).
    From his lofty perch we can all go to hell??

  • Guest

    Williams has not noticed all his competitors have actually LOWERED their hiring standards and will have NO Choice but to Continue…FELONY APPLICANTS are eagerly encouraged to apply today..where they were shunned at one time…hence we have an INCREASE in “trucker arrested” articles….1 million on a google search..funny huh?
    Constantly cops are catching Truckers hauling DOPE??
    Aug 30 San Onofre Weigh Station, Calif…..truck driver Arrested with $15 Million worth of dope (18,000 lbs) in his trailer??? Only the best and the brightest being hired by
    you executives today???

  • Guest

    This Steve Williams telling us Truckers to Get Out??
    His FMCSA record shows this guy is the one who should GET OUT…Maverick shows 106 ACCIDENTS and his STUDENT drivers are constantly ticketed for SPEEDING in construction Zones…and many 15 Miles over the Speed Limit…..they are CLOSE to the ALERT STATUS for UNSAFE DRIVING….they show Vehicle Maintenance CSA points of 70 or more per ONE INSPECTION in July alone….many other maintence inspections they rack up 35 points??? WHO should get OUT???? These executives get Delusional with their lofty status….never leaving town..but Telling Truckers to GET OUT??? This guy is the GOD of TRUCKING?? WE should all GET OUT and he would do WHAT???? Wave his arms around in his air conditioned office at imaginary drivers?? Hilarious….more comedy please..this is great.

  • Kurt Keilhofer

    I think his priorities need to be shuffled to retention first, then (more) training, and finally recruiting. He may say that their 58% turnover rate is better than most of the industry, but please show me any sustainable industry than thinks an almost 60% failure rate is acceptable!
    And of course if the shortage was real, there would be freight that was not being hauled and rates would go up. Just because a company says it has empty trucks, or that it has more freight than it can currently haul, does not make it an industry wide problem.

  • Steve

    Williams should really examine his own standing in the trucking world before he make statements about other companies. I’m sure he got carried away with his own importantance because he was being interviewed, but some of his statements are pretty silly.

  • David

    In 1979 before deregulation a union driver in central NY made 60 to 80 thousand dollars a year. They had pension, medical got paid for the time they spent not how fast they could run. They ran 200 or 300 mile turns and if they weren’t home every night they were home close to it. You want driver retention, make it a regular job again instead of a promise like being home at least 6 days a month as I have seen in one recent add.

  • Sed

    FMCSA,EOB,DOT are all a jokes. The days of truck drivers are gone.Now you you just have little boys that think they are Truck drivers but only when they put the phone

  • Mike Smith

    Who are these people trying to kid? What they really want is massive numbers of cheap drivers. They have allowed millions of legal & illegal aliens to drive for them. Foreigners can get real drivers licences. I could be wrong, but all aliens have to do is present an American drivers licence to get training with some big box outfits. And now the Anchor Babies of illegal aliens have been old enough, for the last 20 yrs., to get CDL’s, and go on to get the Authority as well.

    I do not know about the rates in other regions, but the flatbed rates in the South West are to low, AND there is not enough work. As I have said in the previous article there are a massive amount of foreigners, legal and or illegal aliens, primarily Mexican’s. And most of the OO’s have Mexican name’s on the trucks, coming out of So CA, primarily L.A., and Fontana, CA. If this is happening here you can darn well be sure it’s happening else were. And or it will be moving into your area, too.

  • Tony Hippensteel

    There is NOT a driver shortage!!!!!There are just a shortage of drivers that will agree to work for low-life lying companies. If all you trucking companies would treat your people better there would never be a shortage. PERIOD!

  • Doug

    I expect, some of the trouble with retention, is depending of the company, you may run across dispatchers pushing drivers to get into problems with safety. There are a few of these that are larger companies. Then you have the renegade small companies whose safety is the dispatcher also. Biggest reason, I see, is…students make less money. So why not keep your fleet cost down. Most of these students think they will make money at this, quickly. They will quit, when they see you can make Werner/Swift money at home, called minimum wage for your 2-5000 buxs for training. The others didn’t learn anything. And some are really good. Personally, after 5 years of wishing I could have more than 4 days per month off, as well as work consistently, and book the loads, to the paying areas, I became independent, as a few of my fellow classmates did.

    I have been doing it for 5 years on my own, and hope I don’t have to work for a company full of pencil pushers, again.

    Kurt, you got that right. People need freight, to operate their own industries. Money would be higher with the old supply and demand theory. I was in Cincinnati, 6 months ago. Freight was high that day, trucks were higher! I had to accept what they were offering, just to get a few hundred miles out, to where they had truck shortage

  • 5Herb7

    And lets not forget his love of new inexperienced drivers. It is by the grace of God that anybody survives their first year in this business. I hope Stevie boy is doing a lot of praying. One might want to think twice about parking next to a Maverick truck at the truck stop. Typical large company… pump out a constant flow of new recruits and everybody is a number.

  • Coffeeclue

    Wrong. There is an overabundance of drivers who would work for these low-life companies. That’s why such companies exist and drivers birch all the time.

  • Coffeeclue

    Stop accepting these crappy jobs and your wish will come true. I’m an independent and I make significantly more then your numbers above. I simply don’t accept stuff that doesn’t pay and there’s plenty of stuff that does pay.

  • jim stewart

    these type companies don’t want to deal with drivers who have experience because the majority of those truckers have a handle on the company scams not baggage like his comments suggest. i see companies screaming for drivers every day but advertising substandard wages at $.30+ cents per mile. the company recruiter thinks a chicken box dinner at a cheap motel is gonna fill seats with quality drivers. this is typical of how they view the workforce that they so desperately want to attract. thank GOD i own my truck & have the years & the experience that goes with that to know where to make real money. i pity the poor slobs who are babes just starting out in this corrupt concrete jungle. each of these mega carriers will run these green horns into the ground & burn them out. if the economy ever gets a steady foothold we will see better rates but for now we’re one step ahead of that true trucker shortage. sadly the American trucking association promotes lowering the national drivers age limit & at the same time importing immigrants to fill their members seats so it’s gonna become even more interesting over the next couple of years!

  • Just Me

    Money and respect (in your communications) are 2 things that drivers and really all employees are looking for. That’s where you can save on retention. No one wants to be away from their family 2-4 weeks at a time and then only bring home $300 or less per week, meanwhile being disrespected by their coworkers/office staff.

  • Guest

    Yep…no shortage of mexican trucks you can bet on that…everywhere you see the sign on the door Jose Truckin Logisics….Dot has never investigated ONE company and printed the results of deporting illegal alien truckers and Arresting the company Owner.

  • g

    Yep..he is whats WRONG with trucking his ATTITUDE of KING…and we are the Slaves..he says WE…Truckers should get the hell OUT of trucking?? Who would he MOOCH Off of then?? He has been Leaching off truckers his entire life. 800 drivers a YEAR walk out HIS DOOR each Year in DISGUST!!
    Turnover 56% annually??? Is he running a Torture Chamber at his DUMP?? He is OLD and SENILE and totally OUT of TOUCH….Greed has consumed the rediculous Greedy Pig…..Snort Snort Williams and his STUDENT CLOWN DRIVERS….lol.

  • Guest

    800 drivers walk OFF the JOB at Maverick…he is hardly the guy to tell US anythng about modern day trucking…the guy is living in the past obviously….SENILE.
    What a complete ANUS…he says Truckers should GET OUT of HIS industry??? The KING has spoken???
    Im glad I dont work for this complete JERK.

  • Guest

    Next time ur on a two lane and the truck coming at you is a Maverick will have this KING STEVE to thank…..he will tell you CHEAP is GOOD….we hire only CHEAP DRIVERS..the others can GET OUT!!!

  • reeler

    all it is a regulation, hrs, about safety,+ you make less monies on a truck driving than a minimum wages,
    figure all the hours, and the time you are out, and you make less than 5 buck per hour, even worse with this new rules, and e logs driver even make worse than mc donals. do your matts, drivers need to make a list $ 1.200. per week,

  • reeler

    this person is correct, don’t settle for less, understand what it is, ask for more when you are hire, no matter your experience ,
    you go to the store and we need to pay what they ask for, believe or not, all the jobs are out of our country

  • reeler

    sr, you better understand your job, is not a Mexican it is about, you not charge what you
    value, I see that most of the Mexicans, have nothing to do with our job, the drivers are responsible for their wages not the Mexican,
    the driver settle what they really make,
    believe it or not you are the responsible driver who desired how much you like to make. is so sample.

  • Guest

    This Foreigner is attempting to Communicate??..something about am I his mexican daddy??

  • joe

    driver shortage? I say bull sh.t!!! plenty of us GOOD drivers out here that aren’t allowed to drive because of a single accident. while in the same company an ex-driver of the year can roll his company truck over and keep driving. I have been home since mid march this yr, the job market sux let alone the small town here. with the safety requirements now they all have set up for new hires driving is out of the question…

  • Mike Smith

    So many like you try and convince Americans nothings wrong. You, and those like you, try to use nonsense statements to detract us, to sway us. Suggesting, it’s OK to have 10’s of millions of Mexican’s in our country, birthing 6 kids for free, draining our resources. (Yet Mexicans have not allowed Americans to live and buy property in Mexico. Oh, yes now Mexico will let Americans buy, now that it’s to dangerous for us to live there).

    I like it when people like you try and support the Mexican Invasion. It gives me opportunity to speak out.

  • RalphMalph

    Too funny … just too funny !

    58% turnover rate is low …. 100 % is average … ahem … excuse me, but did you bother to give it a thought that in the days of Real Salary with Real Benefits, especially that dirty word bennie known as a ” Pension “, employees tended to Stay the Course … ever notice that or don’t care to admit it ! ? ! ?

    Yeah I know … ‘ We have a 401-K ‘ ….. dry that version of the term Pension Plan out, spread it around the lawn and watch the grass grow.

    Any young guy that asks me about going trucking gets the Good Ol’ Days truth from me …. ‘ Go on Welfare kid, it pays better ‘ !

  • RalphMalph

    BINGO !

  • RalphMalph

    Perhaps you ought to read it again …. he said before ” Dereg ” !

    Back then virtually EVERY trucking job was a Good Job …. now we all work for the money you guys got us !
    You work like a South of the Border guy for South of the Border pesos, I’m not.

    Hey, I hear Celedon is still hirin’ at .10 cpm … jump on it.

    It’s a great profession to be >>> FROM !

  • RalphMalph

    The best part of his Sob Story …. ” only 58% turnover rate ”

    Really … really …. what is the average turnover rate at ABF … Yellow/R … UPS ?

    What was average turnover at McLean, Brown, Burgmeyer, Leaman Chem, Consolidated Freight, Time/DC RedBall, Cooper-Jarrett, Garrett, Specter, IML, TransCon, P-I-E, St. Johnsbury, Preston, Red Star, Watkins, Jones Motor

    ……… bet the ranch it wasn’t 58% to 100 % !

  • William McKelvie

    I read a few paragraphs then it all turns into blah blah blah. How’s about someone get one of those blinking light messages that actually gets through to people, and put it in front of Williams. It should say, BETTER DRIVER PAY. Better yet, get one of those huge flashing road signs, put it in front of his driveway. Maybe he will get it then? Keep paying drivers peanut slave wages, and you will keep getting turnover and bottom barrel employees.

  • Life With No Fixed Address

    I heard a story in the laundry room last night that I believe is true and indicative of the attitude toward the value of the driver. Granted this is a small regional carrier with 20 open deck trucks. The ownership switched to cardlock fueling, which apparently saves 9-cents a gallon — the driver who told me also confessed to loving speed, and I don’t believe his sweet-spot-of-67 story — but in doing so transferred a significant cost to the driver in the process. Cardlocks have no showers. A driver who is on the road 48 weeks of the year, home weekends, and has, heaven forbid, one $13 TA/Petro shower per week has had her costs upped $624 a year. Two showers a week, $1,248 and three showers a week it’s $1,872. This is also a safety issue. In addition to all the other worries drivers juggle, now we add being dirty, out-of-sorts and outside the human race. There are other ways to entice drivers into fuel conservation which helps a carrier’s bottom line and the driver’s. But it’s much more expedient to offload corporate costs onto the driver. The driver shortage is a self-imposed penalty on carriers and shippers. What they want are taxpayer subsidies, not to develop good drivers that they must retain with a pay and benefit package.

  • Guest

    58% turnover….well aint that Great??? 800 drivers a year walk out the door?? lol

  • Guest

    Maverick is running a scam…getting Gov Subsidy probably for employing clowns after their dumb “school”…..Why else would he watch 800 drivers per YEAR walk out the door??? Something very Fishy about that operation….they get about 10k per student that is employed by them….better deal than TRUCKING…….lol

  • Keith Birmingham

    If you want to keep your drivers just make it worth their time and effort to be out on the road for you.

  • Guest

    Maverick is running an extension to the DRIVER MILL…students come and go quickly to make room for Gov Subsidized STUDENTS from the Welfare to Work program where THEY got a Subsidy to for attending “truckin school”.
    This is all a big racket….Corporate Welfare like all the Mega Fleets…sucking off the Taxpayer and calling themselves “businessmen”…hilarious stuff…..ask Steve how much Gov Money to he MOOCH last year??

  • Guest

    Smoke and Mirrors and Corporate Welfare…..this guy who RUNS the School..saying experienced joureymen drivers have too much “baggage” and bad habits…but HE is getting Gov Money for every student that “graduates”……then he
    funnels the student to MAVERICK who gets Gov Subsidy for
    training them……Corp Mooching at its Finest.

  • Frank Dee Dee Carr

    The problem with the new hires right out of driving schools is that the schools get a subsidy for every student that passes, so they will not fail a potential driver unless they are so dangerous that they just have to, which rarely hapens. My ex used to be a driving instructor for one school. Then, if the school doesn’t want to be as responsible as they can, they only provide about 2 weeks training, then the students are turned loose on the world.

  • John Scott

    Working conditions are bad, lots of hours un paid. Try asking someone who now makes $30,000 working 40 hours to do that and work 70 hours? Plus, be away from home for weeks or months? Yes, some good money in trucking but not without big sacrafices. Take a look at the new drivers, mostly single, young, possibly ex military. No dads, older men, woman or truly professional career oriented drivers. This is NOT pilots. Its truck driving and many will most likely not stay in trucking very long. The placement rate is so good because the drop out rate is so good. Until we run out of desparate bodies and low educated people desparate for a job. We will have plenty of steering wheel holders for trucks.

  • martymarsh

    You can not get rid of the best talent and attract the best talent at the same time. Life does not work that way, not even in the corrupt trucking industry.

  • John Scott

    Look at any truck driving job advertising. Its full of false hope and miss information. Trying to make a crappy job sound awfully good. Yes, as a owner operator myself COFFEECLue I agree with what you say. But even independents have more expenses, more costs for equipment and a stagnent rate that much less then 20 years ago. Don’t tell me its great. Its not.

  • martymarsh

    I won’t come down to hard on you Dave, but let me just ask you this, where are all the teamster trucking companies now?

  • martymarsh

    That is not much of a comparison considering only the top 3 is still around, and if they were truckload carriers even they wouldn’t be around. So apparently you are pushing for the teamsters here, the union that backs the corporation and not the protection money paying member.

  • martymarsh

    The words are actually abused by, instead of disrespected.

  • Tony Hippensteel

    Yes…there are still quite a few losers at the end of their rope who will work for these companies. What I was trying to say is that the senior, highly qualified drivers will never stoop that low. Luckily I am now an hourly driver….home every night, and am making more than I ever did running OTR gone for weeks or months at a time.

  • Tony Hippensteel

    I agree! I very rarely get through a truckstop these days, but when I do, I love to pick up the magazines advertising for drivers. What a laugh! How can they ALL be the best to drive for? How can they ALL have the best pay package? This alone should throw up a red flag to anyone with a little common sense.

  • Topper

    Oh ReallY? These corporate heads should drive a truck as good as they do making up numbers that don’t mean Jack squat. Bottom line is companies crunch numbers for cheap labor to compete in the market of getting cheap freight. If they paid what a good qualified driver is worth the average pay for a driver would be at least double where it is. What a joke when I see these big carriers advertise “up to .40 per mile”. or 52,000 a year. All that to live like a cock roach in a rolling coffin stuck on a road to no where!

  • Kevin J. Reidy

    This is a trucking company that averages 4.8 reportable crashes a month for the previous 24 months, fault not determined.

    From SAFER for Maverick Transportation:

    Crashes reported to FMCSA by states for 24 months prior to: 09/02/2013

    Note: Crashes listed represent a motor carrier’s involvement in reportable crashes, without any determination as to responsibility.

    Crashes:Type Fatal:1 Injury:38 Tow:77

    Total:116 Crashes

  • 5Herb7

    Yeah you never know when one of Stevie’s “clean slates” are going to run into you. Lol.

  • RalphMalph


    If the industry was and could pay a ‘ Living Wage ‘ back then, when there was no driver shortage, how is it that it can’t now … but the Execs can make a great wage ?

    You know what Union Wages are apparently … why would you work for 1970’s wages in the year 2013 ?

  • RalphMalph

    Buried, by guys working for Celadon wages, yet those same cheap labor guys are crying about the Celadon’s of the industry.

    I made in the late 70’s – early 80’s what you make now …. did your cost of living roll back to the 70-80’s, mine didn’t ?

    I hear of OO’s working for $1.00 pm ….. Tajon in Mercer, Pa guaranteed us that much when fuel was .32 cpg in 1980 …. need I say more ? strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.