Respondents to polling conducted in December and January expressed widely different views about a driver shortage. As shown above, about half (44 percent) consider it real, while the other half (48 percent) view it as myth or primarily a function of other forces, not any real shortage of available workers. Responses to the above poll at OverdriveOnline.com from readers follow.
Roger: If there was a shortage of drivers, freight wouldn’t get hauled, and rates would be up. Don’t know about the rest of you, but l’m not seeing it.
M.J. Zurich: The “shortage of qualified drivers” is largely a byproduct of deregulation. That saw the elimination of any meaningful carrier fitness standard. A total abandonment of that federal standard over the years has brought some seriously bad actors into the trucking business, resulting in, among other things, the decades-long wholesale drop in driver wages. Based on my own 44 years in trucking, I’ll still say that if the drivers’ wages and benefits packages are where they’re supposed to be, the people needed for the OTR long-haul jobs will show up. Word-of-mouth about a wage/benefits package will travel faster (and is a way more effective recruiting and retention tool) than any slick ad campaign or trucking show kiosk will ever hope to be.
Ed: The problem is the fact that freight rates are in the crapper and that the new generation of drivers that go through these driving schools is not taught to drive, for the most part. A fellow I know just spent over $6,000 to go through a driving school. Of the 160 hours of the course, he was able to get less than six hours behind the wheel, and by the way, his driving instructor had completed the course less than one year prior. With all the regulations coming down the pike – be it FMCSA or EPA – there may likely be a real shortage soon, though.
Dennis Brannon: We’ve seen a shift in interest from drivers leaving company employee roles to become owner-operators, but not a shortage. Shortage to me implies that there aren’t enough drivers to meet demand.
The 1099 [independent contractor] economy is gaining traction because millennials aren’t interested in working for the man. I believe that generation will create unconventional ways to meet demand and provide capacity. However, not in the traditional sense the ATA and big-box truckers want it done. Watch for spikes in leased equipment and increased urgency for automation.
LeAnn McKee: The big picture suggests that in the next five to 10 years, there will really be a shortage, as no one wants to get into this business. … With no incentive for new drivers (signing bonuses are meaningless in the long term, and irrelevant to owner-ops), there will indeed be a shortage. As I’m stuck in this, I hope that shortage truly hits soon, so rates go up!
Tim: There probably is an excess of people that could be qualified to drive a commercial vehicle. The problem is that they all have real jobs.The point is there is not a driver shortage, there is a trucker shortage because of ridiculous, unfair, unreasonable expectations and demands from an out of control nanny government — it’s driven good, safe operators from the road.
Rachel: There is only a shortage of drivers because they have a hard time covering cheap freight loads. They have shot themselves in the foot. Underbidding to get contracts signed by big shippers for rates that no owner-operator or independent wants to do it for. Then say, driver shortage. Lets make $50,000 a year and to do that live 300 days a year in a truck stop. End of story is [that] no over-the-road driver makes enough money for what they miss out in life.
Gordon Alkire: Let’s look at underbidding for a moment. A few years ago I was laying over at the TA West in Ontario, Calif. I got to talking to a driver. I found out he and I were going to load at the same customer next day. We got to the customer, and his load was taken by another carrier. He was not a happy camper. I knew the shipping clerk. He told me that a large carrier that had about 10 drivers sitting empty in SoCal had offered to move all of their loads anywhere in the U.S. for 50 cents a mile. No one can beat or compete with the 50 cents a mile. As it turned out, the shipping clerk said they were told by the carrier rep that it is cheaper to keep a driver moving and earning and easier to absorb the cost than have them quit and/or abandon trucks. So there were at least 10 trucks that got cut out of the revenue due to a large carrier cutting rates.
Tom and Sheila Hurd: If there was a real driver shortage, the 100 percent turnover rate would be drivers quitting their job for better paying jobs. Sooner or later, after quitting the 50th job a driver should be making $200,000 a year if he keeps trading up to a better job. Drivers aren’t quitting up [in income], they are simply quitting abuse, hoping for a better life around the next steering wheel, and the next, and the next. The definition of insanity: keep doing the same thing looking for a better result.
James C.: Problem is, none of this will reach the people who can affect needed change. It won’t reach them because they won’t care to read it. It’s all about a money-making proposition. It doesn’t matter that they are propagating a have/have-not culture — they’re getting richer and richer, which is all that matters.
Moreover, they’re doing it on the backs of people who are powerless to stop it. What’s worse is the DOT is helping to propagate this condition. Stricter enforcement, officers (far too) often aggressively persecuting drivers with little to no sufficient reason. Combine this with the low pay forced on new drivers by the industry’s plutocrats, and you have an environment exactly the opposite of conducive [to] wishing to remain in it.
I am a 16-year veteran who left it late last year. I quit and became a cab driver. I now make more money, I am home every night, and, for once after a great many years, I am becoming happy again. … Why are drivers constantly leaving and looking for another driving job? It isn’t because they’re happy.