Federal Report Casts Serious Doubt On ‘driver Shortage’

Topic 24972 | Page 1

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Marc Lee's Comment
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From Overdrive James Jaillet |March 19, 2019

BLS contends that, though fleets struggle with driver retention, there’s little evidence of a shortage of those willing to drive a truck, pushing back against what it calls the “industry’s own account” that there’s a labor shortage in the long-haul trucking segment.

A lengthy study recently published by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics concludes that, from a true economics perspective, there’s little evidence supporting the widely publicized notion that there’s a driver shortage in the trucking industry. Any perceived shortage is isolated to long-haul truckload fleets, argues the study from BLS, the U.S. Department of Labor’s research wing.

The issue, BLS contends, is more one of driver retention rather than a shortfall of people willing to work as truck drivers. The agency acknowledges the market for drivers has been tight for decades, but says that there’s no “evidence of a secular shortage,” referring to a shortage persisting long-term as opposed to temporary or cyclical.

“As a whole, the market for truck drivers appears to work as well as any other blue-collar labor market, and while it tends to be ‘tight,’ it imposes no constraints on entry into (or exit from) the occupation. There is thus no reason to think that, given sufficient time, driver supply should fail to respond to price (wage) signals in the standard way,” BLS summarizes in its report, Is the U.S. labor market for truck drivers broken?

The report was written by Stephen Burks, an economics professor at the University of Minnesota Morris, and Kristen Monaco, an associate commissioner at BLS.

The authors contend that labor shortages are difficult for economists to pin down and to study, but the agency casts blame for persistent claims of a driver shortage on the media — both consumer and trucking trade press — and with trade associations, such as the American Trucking Associations. ATA has long argued the industry faces a pressing shortage of truck drivers. ATA did not immediately return request for comment on the BLS findings, but their response will be added if it becomes available.

Overdrive has been something of an outlier among consumer and trucking trade press, casting doubt on the “driver shortage” notion most prominently in the 2016 “Driver Shortage Alarm” feature series.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, too, last month issued a report arguing the driver shortage is more myth than reality. OOIDA argues that growth in the number of small fleets and growth of small fleets themselves has prompted greater competition for drivers, thus exacerbating larger fleets’ troubles with recruiting and retaining drivers.

The driver shortage alarm The disconnect between the money and the mantra: As trucking has trumpeted a driver shortage over most of the last 10 years driver pay hasn’t ...

ATA data on driver turnover and industry-wide anecdotes about the challenges in recruiting the desired number of drivers have contributed to the driver shortage perception. However, high turnover does not equate to a labor shortage, BLS contends, and accounting for all industry segments, there’s little evidence of a labor shortage relative to driving jobs.

From the BLS report: “Economists would not regard high turnover rates and the associated problems of recruiting and retaining drivers in this part of trucking as a long-term shortage. Nor would they call these conditions a ‘broken market,’ except to the extent that one might use that term for a secondary labor market segment, since the high turnover that marks such a segment is an indicator that the jobs in it are unattractive to many potential employees.”

As drivers have long argued, BLS also asserts that higher driver pay could help alleviate fleets’ recruiting and retention woes. “Higher earnings in truck driving increase occupational entry, especially among individuals who are willing to work longer hours for higher weekly income,” the report states.

It covered industry data from between 2003 and 2017, including data on industry wages, turnover, trucking segments and more. Those metrics were compared to data within other industries with which trucking competes for workers, such as construction and manufacturing.

Truckers earn more than workers in those industries, helping lead to stable employment within trucking, the report finds. Drivers are likely to move between industries for better money, but surprisingly, truckers move between occupations at a lower rate than “workers with similar education levels,” the report’s authors say. “This suggests that, in aggregate, the labor market for truck drivers works about as well as the labor markets for other blue-collar occupations.”


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.


Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association

Who They Are

OOIDA is an international trade association representing the interests of independent owner-operators and professional drivers on all issues that affect truckers. The over 150,000 members of OOIDA are men and women in all 50 states and Canada who collectively own and/or operate more than 240,000 individual heavy-duty trucks and small truck fleets.

Their Mission

The mission of OOIDA is to serve owner-operators, small fleets and professional truckers; to work for a business climate where truckers are treated equally and fairly; to promote highway safety and responsibility among all highway users; and to promote a better business climate and efficiency for all truck operators.


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
G-Town's Comment
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