So, About That Truck Driver Shortage ...

Topic 11485 | Page 2

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Rob S.'s Comment
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So if the driver shortage was filled, what would more truckers in this industry do to existing wages? Depress them further. This was my whole point, what has this supposed driver shortage done so far to wages? Nothing, but more drivers will only lower wages even further. If there is indeed a need for more drivers, that must mean that existing goods are getting to market but much slower than it could if there were enough drivers to deliver them.

Brett Aquila's Comment
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what has this supposed driver shortage done so far to wages? Nothing

Well I think it's a chicken-and-egg scenario where wages are being driven down so low that it's creating an artificial demand for drivers. In theory, if companies have more than enough drivers to fill the seats then it means they're paying too much or their minimum qualifications are too low. If they're barely able to get enough drivers to fill the seats then they're paying just enough. If there's a huge shortage they need to raise wages, lower minimum hiring requirements, fund (sponsor) training for applicants who qualify but can't afford schooling, or increase their marketing efforts.

There is no shortage in the sense that freight is sitting around unable to be moved. When they say there's a shortage they're normally surveying companies to see how many drivers they intend to hire. If one company says "We'll hire 1,000 drivers this year" and another company says "We'll hire 500 drivers this year" then the headlines are going to say, "The Trucking Industry Faces A Shortage Of 1,500 Drivers"

But is there really a shortage? No. Not in the sense that factories are sitting around waiting to find someone that can haul their freight. They're simply adding up the number of drivers that companies say they intend to hire and they're calling it a shortage.

The Persian Conversion's Comment
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what has this supposed driver shortage done so far to wages? Nothing

double-quotes-end.png

Well I think it's a chicken-and-egg scenario where wages are being driven down so low that it's creating an artificial demand for drivers. In theory, if companies have more than enough drivers to fill the seats then it means they're paying too much or their minimum qualifications are too low. If they're barely able to get enough drivers to fill the seats then they're paying just enough. If there's a huge shortage they need to raise wages, lower minimum hiring requirements, fund (sponsor) training for applicants who qualify but can't afford schooling, or increase their marketing efforts.

There is no shortage in the sense that freight is sitting around unable to be moved. When they say there's a shortage they're normally surveying companies to see how many drivers they intend to hire. If one company says "We'll hire 1,000 drivers this year" and another company says "We'll hire 500 drivers this year" then the headlines are going to say, "The Trucking Industry Faces A Shortage Of 1,500 Drivers"

But is there really a shortage? No. Not in the sense that factories are sitting around waiting to find someone that can haul their freight. They're simply adding up the number of drivers that companies say they intend to hire and they're calling it a shortage.

So in that hypothetical scenario, do they take into account the percentage of those 1,500 drivers who are replacing other drivers who either quit, retire or get fired? Say a company plans to hire 1,500 drives but they also plan to lose 1,000. Do they then say the shortage is only 500?

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Rob S.'s Comment
member avatar
"But is there really a shortage? No. Not in the sense that factories are sitting around waiting to find someone that can haul their freight. They're simply adding up the number of drivers that companies say they intend to hire and they're calling it a shortage."

Thank-you Brett, that was exactly my point. It's not a shortage in the real or traditional sense, only a headline grabbing, drama generating statement.

Brett Aquila's Comment
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Thank-you Brett, that was exactly my point. It's not a shortage in the real or traditional sense, only a headline grabbing, drama generating statement.

But it does have real effects though at the same time. I mean, an experienced driver with a good record really can quit his job in the morning and have a dozen jobs by lunchtime. There are big sign-on bonuses and all kinds of little perks thrown at you, especially by the bigger companies. So in that sense we all have unlimited choices when it comes to what company we want to work for and they do incentivize drivers to join their company. So that's cool.

From a driver's perspective the job market does feel like we're in huge demand but the paycheck begs to differ.

Kieran L.'s Comment
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From a driver's perspective the job market does feel like we're in huge demand but the paycheck begs to differ.

I do agree but also gotta say honestly $35-65k/yr for a job that doesn't require a college degree is still pretty damn good in today's market. I will say having worked a long string of mostly entry level jobs in my lifetime that did not require a college degree, even first year OTR drivers make more in a year than I have ever made before. Granted, the hours and demands are also significantly more than most entry level jobs, but I still think the pay in trucking is a decent liveable wage for most people (just not as great as it maybe could or should be for what the job requires).

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Brian 's Comment
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I agree it comes down to pay, it's why were out here moving product. Most companies have huge turnover rates because of low pay, and driver's are forced too look elsewhere for better opportunities, thus causing companies continually hiring new candidates to replace those leaving.

Most companies I have looked into don't offer the traditional job type yearly raises.......your pay per mile when you start (not training), is the same as all drivers and remains that way until they raise it for all. Some offer better equipped trucks to lure drivers......APU, fridge, etc

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

APU:

Auxiliary Power Unit

On tractor trailers, and APU is a small diesel engine that powers a heat and air conditioning unit while charging the truck's main batteries at the same time. This allows the driver to remain comfortable in the cab and have access to electric power without running the main truck engine.

Having an APU helps save money in fuel costs and saves wear and tear on the main engine, though they tend to be expensive to install and maintain. Therefore only a very small percentage of the trucks on the road today come equipped with an APU.

Rob S.'s Comment
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"I do agree but also gotta say honestly $35-65k/yr for a job that doesn't require a college degree is still pretty damn good in today's market."

I would beg to differ. I don't share the view that pay should be purely based on the level of education one has. How about the level of risk one takes, not just with their own lives, but those of others. One moment of inattentiveness as a truck driver can have dire consequences, yet the pay nowhere near compensates for this level of responsibility. Let's not sell ourselves short by thinking that just because a job needs no post-secondary education, that it is not worthy of a decent paycheck. And also the amount of hours a trucker puts in is way more than in any other job. If we don't value ourselves or our time then no one else will.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

"I do agree but also gotta say honestly $35-65k/yr for a job that doesn't require a college degree is still pretty damn good in today's market."

I would beg to differ. I don't share the view that pay should be purely based on the level of education one has. How about the level of risk one takes, not just with their own lives, but those of others. One moment of inattentiveness as a truck driver can have dire consequences, yet the pay nowhere near compensates for this level of responsibility. Let's not sell ourselves short by thinking that just because a job needs no post-secondary education, that it is not worthy of a decent paycheck. And also the amount of hours a trucker puts in is way more than in any other job. If we don't value ourselves or our time then no one else will.

Rob makes excellent points and of course you could add a long list of difficulties to those:

  • long periods of time away from home
  • erratic sleep schedules
  • living in a walk-in closet
  • random drug tests
  • DOT physicals renewed every two years max
  • random DOT inspections
  • a 24 hour work cycle
  • working 70 hours every 8 days without overtime pay (What's up with that??)

....you could go on and on about the challenges and sacrifices that truck drivers handle every day of their lives out there.

I would agree that truck driving pays a decent wage considering you don't need to go to a four year university to land a job. But I believe the challenges they face, the skills they require, and the sacrifices they make should demand a salary about $20,000-$30,000 higher than it is today.

And if trucking wages would have kept up with inflation over the past 22 years that's exactly what drivers would be making today. I made $40,000 or so in my first year back in 1993. When adjusted for inflation you would have to make $64,000 today to have the same spending power that $40,000 had in 1993 but a first year driver today will average about $35,000. So when adjusted for inflation, truck driver pay has dropped by like 40% in 20 years.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Mark B.'s Comment
member avatar

I would beg to differ. I don't share the view that pay should be purely based on the level of education one has. How about the level of risk one takes, not just with their own lives, but those of others. One moment of inattentiveness as a truck driver can have dire consequences, yet the pay nowhere near compensates for this level of responsibility. Let's not sell ourselves short by thinking that just because a job needs no post-secondary education, that it is not worthy of a decent paycheck. And also the amount of hours a trucker puts in is way more than in any other job. If we don't value ourselves or our time then no one else will.

Couldn't agree more, Rob.

Brett, I've read your comments in several threads where you talk about how drivers' pay has stagnated over the years - like it has with most blue collar jobs. I am curious: what is your take on companies' ability to raise driver pay? Having discussed the market with several veteran drivers in my area, they all seemed to think that the transportation industry has become so ultra-competitive that company profit margins are too small to afford the increase in pay. I remember you pointing out thin profit margins and high expenses are pitfalls for Owner Operators, although I have met a few independent O/Os who said they are doing very well for themselves (some folks are more disciplined/savvy business owners than others). It seems to me that if companies were serious about recruiting and retaining the best qualified drivers, it would make sense for them to offer a better compensation package. Although it also occurs to me that high rates of attrition are used to the company's advantage...

Owner Operator:

An owner-operator is a driver who either owns or leases the truck they are driving. A self-employed driver.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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