Driver shortage?

We received many letters from truckers weighing in on our November 2006 cover story about the driver shortage. Some believe there is no driver shortage; others believe it exists but differ on how to solve the problem.

We Need Advocates
There is no driver shortage! There is a shortage of good companies willing to pay a decent salary to attract and keep good and experienced drivers.

Costs on the road have gone up substantially, and the raises, if any, have not kept up.

Also, companies should have a driver advocate (and I mean a driver/former driver, not a recruiter) that drivers can call when they need to blow off steam. How many drivers get angry and get the run around from dispatch, so he/she picks up a recruiting magazine and starts making phone calls to other companies looking for that greener grass?

And why if the companies care so much about me – or so they say every driver appreciation day – why can’t I earn sick leave? I work in one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. I work in one of the most unhealthy environments, I’m away from home and give so much for the company, yet I get no sick leave, but those who work in the office do earn sick leave?

Also, if there was a driver shortage the truckstops wouldn’t be full of drivers looking for loads!
James Maxwell
Chillicothe, Mo.

‘No One Wants to Be Hated’
There is a good reason for the driver shortage. No one wants to be a truck driver. The message is quite clear. The United States hates truck drivers. Truck drivers are considered criminals. Crooked legislators are constantly making laws against us (like the cruel no-idling law). The trucking industry could stand up for itself, but why should they? They just bully the poor company driver like they’ve always done in schools. They teach children that truckers are fat 40-year-olds who never shower and chase cars off the road. The driver shortage is a simple one; no one wants to be hated.
Shane Seymour
Cisco, Texas

Change in Attitude for All
This is in response to an article titled “It’s Not Your Truck” (a sidebar to the November 2006 cover story on the driver shortage). In the article Mr. Duff Swain talks about changing attitudes that would try to make trucks truly work 24/7, hence more efficiently.

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To do this, though, would require slip seating. What is pay going to look like? What the industry has done is price themselves with wages and conditions that were obsolete back 20-plus years ago. Slip seat = hourly wage. Right at where it should be. If I’m slip seating and I get caught in a snow storm and have to shut down, my company has to pay.

That company will think twice about sending loads out in hazardous conditions, force a more timely dispatch and have a lot more divers getting home. If you want to tell that driver that’s not his truck and change attitudes, the companies need to change their attitudes as well. Bring back the hourly wage for everyone.

I don’t know about other drivers, but the truck I’m driving is my truck. It reflects my attitude towards my company, the equipment and people on the road. Even in slip seating there is time to reflect your attitude.
Julie McLean
Rohnert Park, Calif.

Trucking is a Way of Life
In the November issue you listed, yet again, what most all of us have known for quite some time. There simply aren’t enough drivers to fill all of the positions and all the positions expected to open in the next number of years. Driving a truck is not just a job, nor is it just a career. Quite simply, it’s a way of life.

When I first started driving in 1990, it was explained to me that only 5 percent of all those who started driving would still be driving by the end of their first year. Of those who make it past that first-year mark, only about 5 percent will still be driving at the end of five years. It’s not that there are so few people capable of driving a truck; heck, almost anyone can learn to drive one. It’s that there are so very few who are physically and mentally capable of living the lifestyle that goes with driving that truck.

The Marines got nothing on us for being the few, the proud. After five years behind the wheel, sleeping in that tiny box, bouncing down the road or while in the sleeper, parked for the night, or day, or whatever schedule your load has you on that week, most people who live like that for that long are simply not physically capable of making the change back to what is considered a normal lifestyle.
Gerald Eichler
Duncan Okla.

My Needs Must Be Met
Of course, the first solution desk jockeys come up with concerning the driver shortage would be to hire a bunch of foreigners who have no place to live but the truck. That is what the execs want anyway, someone who has nothing else to interfere with the company business. Why don’t you guys try to find some way to improve things for the Americans who drive your trucks?

The idea that Duff Swain puts forward would work if the need for the driver to spend even one night in a truck was not there. Slip seating to me is cleaning up behind some people who throw cups and sandwich wrappers on the floor or stuffed up under the seat and who don’t know how to empty an ashtray.

Every industry that Mr. Swain points to as being a 24/7 operation has people who are paid to run maintenance checks on equipment and crews to clean up. If you want to run a slip-seat operation, it needs to be done where there are crews to check the trucks and trailers between drivers and someone to clean up behind some of these pigs.

I am one of those drivers who will and has changed companies three or more times a year to have my needs met. Home time with family and friends means more to me than any of your customers’ wants or needs. Along with that will be enough money to take care of my needs, or I will be history and another point in that 121 percent turnover you are so concerned about.
F.L. “Sarge” Sargent
Jackson, Tenn.

Treat Us Right
If companies really want to keep their drivers, quit acting like a bunch of two-faced liars. Owner-operators are the most reliable drivers. A lot of owner-operators got out when fuel shot up, companies upped their fuel surcharge 25 cents plus, but how much were they charging shippers? Ask your boss that. Dollar says he won’t tell you the truth, and that’s when he shows you the exit door. Or how about fuel discounts? How much is the company making off you buying fuel at their picks?

Drivers are the best recruiters. Treat them right, and trucking companies will be buying and financing more trucks for drivers.
Mike Kahre
Lockwood, Mo.

Write us
Send your letters to Randy Grider, Truckers News, 3200 Rice Mine Road N.E., Tuscaloosa, AL 35406, by fax to (205) 750-8070 or by e-mail to [email protected].

Letters must include your name, address and phone number for verification and must be no longer than 500 words.

Letters are subject to editing.