Is There Really A Trucker Shortage?

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Kerry L.'s Comment
member avatar

My class started with 64 students, was standing room only the first day. 2nd day, drug test/physical day, I think we lost over 20 lol. End of school, was only 24 of us left that got our licenses. Before the 6th month, there was "maybe" 10 left actually driving By 10th month and contract end, maybe 6 of us left, 1 year, just 2. Lil bit later thru contacts and gossip store, I was the only 1 that went 2 years there. More than half of them were loud mouth talkers, how they are gunna be Super Truckers, Lease Op's etc.....NONE got their, and most weren't cut out to drive anyways=safer roads for everyone lol.......Yeah HIGH turn over and failure rates

In truth, it's much better when the turnover happens during orientation and early training phase when the danger is not nearly as high. I know that if I discovered that an industry just wasn't for me, I would want to find out before I am putting lives in danger. I don't want to discover that I am not cutout to be a police officer while on a shift and faced with a situation where people are relying on me to protect them. I think that's why it's always best to learn as much about a career before trying to get my feet wet.

Wile E.'s Comment
member avatar

I'm looking at getting back into driving, which I did a long time ago for a few years, but I can say with certainty that most, if not all, of the blue collar trades industries are experiencing shortages and difficulty in hiring. My current job is in CNC programming, and there are a lot of job openings that employers are struggling to fill. Same thing with carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc.

Several of you have mentioned that it's not necessarily an overall shortage, but a shortage of good, skilled drivers. The same is true of all the trades, at least it is where I live.

For many years, the push was "get a college degree," and that push is still there. Skilled trades have been pushed into what is perceived by many as a lower class and/or less desirable occupation. That in itself is wrong and a shame. Skilled trades can offer substantial income, and a very comfortable lifestyle, without the massive college debt, and truck driving is right in there. None of the trades is a good fit for just anybody, but too many have bought into the "get a degree" mindset, and then end up with a mountain of debt and a degree that doesn't offer much in the way of a solid career.

Don't misunderstand: I'm not anti-college. For many, it is a great choice. I'm just saying that the trades industries are also a great choice for the right person, but too many won't even consider it.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

The truck driver shortage is always an interesting topic. I never have fully agreed with the premise. This business is so complex it is hard to put a finger on exactly what is going on when we hear these media reports of driver shortages. Do we need drivers? Certainly we do. Can we really call it a shortage when there are tons of people getting their CDLs each year? It's easy for us to come to the conclusion that we are short on good solid professionals who are willing to stay in the industry, but that doesn't change the fact that we all go to the stores and find what we need there. We are experiencing unusual times currently where you can't find some things, but mostly the supply chain issues we are currently experiencing are not related to truck driver shortages. When we don't see cars at the dealerships it is not because there is a shortage of delivery drivers to deliver them. The cars themselves are not available to be delivered. We can see long lines of trucks waiting for loads at the ports. The drivers are there, but the freight is not ready yet.

When you dig a little deeper and see who is claiming these shortages you'll find the major carriers or groups that represent them like the ATA. Organizations representing independent operators such as OOIDA will argue that there is no driver shortage. What gives? There has to be reasons for these trade groups to hold diametrically opposed opinions. The ATA members can definitely benefit from more drivers in their pool of workers. That gives them more freight capacity. If they have empty tractors and trailers sitting around they cannot haul as much freight as they are potentially capable. I work for one of the large companies in the ATA. I am not ashamed of that - we have had a long and mutually beneficial relationship. I see the empty equipment sitting in our yards being unused. When the major carriers have more capacity that makes it a little tougher on the independent operators to compete. That extra capacity allows the big players to control the rates more easily. It frustrates the ability for the independents to have a niche in the markets.

We have seen some increases in driver pay over the past few years, but for the most part it remains rather stagnant. That is a strong indication that there is not a real shortage, but a manufactured one designed to aid in recruiting. Another indicator that there is no real driver shortage is that experienced professionals are not being pursued very aggressively with retention bonuses or higher levels of pay. Many of the large carriers will start rookies out at rates of pay that are near what ten year veteran drivers are making. There are some companies trying hard to keep their top drivers, but I don't see a strong push for this in the major carriers. If there were a true driver shortage, then I think we would see companies competing to keep their top talent. It's all mysterious to me and there is no easy answer to the OP's question.

I have had a long relationship with my employer. They have been nothing but good to me, but the opposite can be said too. They would not deny that I have been good to them. I earn more money than most anyone in my fleet, but the rates of pay among the drivers do not vary that much. I earn what I do because my knowledge and experience allow me to capitalize on them and make good things happen out here in my favor. I stay where I am because I am comfortable with my situation and it is working for me. Were I to move on I would be starting over at learning how to make sure I can squeeze the most out of my new situation and that puts me back at a new starting point.

Are the major carriers content with having a core group of drivers like myself on their team while they also run a bunch of new drivers in and out of their system just to keep their capacity levels at an acceptable rate? They may be able to keep their capacity up by always having new drivers in the wings to take place of new drivers who are leaving. They may not have much other choice than to manage it that way. If that is the case, then I can see why they label it as a shortage. I can tell you that there is no shortage of people coming and going in and out of the trucking career. That is a very fluid group of people. If there is a shortage it is a shortage in people understanding what it takes to be successful as a truck driver.

I don't know how to address that issue effectively. I try everyday. I have written extensively on it here at Trucking Truth and I am currently writing a book on the subject. As hard as I try, I can barely scrape the surface of the subject with anything I feel will be effective. Trucking is challenging. We have regulatory bodies who are constantly trying to improve our industry which are made up of people who have never even been inside a truck, much less faced the daily challenges of being a driver. Those same regulators are currently developing new entry level training programs which will be mandated for new drivers. Their purpose is to address the so called driver shortages and to improve safety on our highways, but they don't even have a clear vision of what is needed to accomplish those goals. They are shooting in the dark at a moving target. They never reach their mark. They can produce reams of paper showing how hard they have worked on the issue, but we still have a revolving door of new drivers coming in, and failing drivers going out, that is spinning out of control.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

OOIDA:

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Robert B. (The Dragon) ye's Comment
member avatar

Old School brings up an interesting point. He talked about carriers having unused equipment in their various facilities and it’s not just a recent thing, you see it everywhere all the time. My question is this. Is it really a matter of a shortage, or a matter of the company purchasing too much equipment anticipating that they might be able to fill those seats, then using the argument of a shortage to justify it?

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Chris P.'s Comment
member avatar

It seems to me that the obvious solution to getting and keeping more truck drivers would be to raise their pay. Consequently, the news says that new truck drivers are getting paid better so maybe there is a true shortage. Also, trucking is very unforgiving to new drivers. People get fired on their first mistake, and noobs are quite likely to make mistakes. Plus 49% of people have admitted to trying marijuana now, as it has been legalized, and that "mistake" follows them around for three months to a year with a hair follicle test. It seems the trucking companies are only getting more picky.

Also, completely unrelated to the topic, but is there some trick to staying signed in on this website? I'm constantly getting signed out.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.
Old School's Comment
member avatar
the obvious solution to getting and keeping more truck drivers would be to raise their pay.

Chris, I started nine years ago at the rate of 27 cents per mile. Nobody is starting anywhere near that low these days, These companies have increased their pay levels to rookie drivers considerably. I think it is a little stagnant, but increasing it has never seemed to help with keeping new drivers on board. They usually quit of their own accord due to the challenges of the job that they were not prepared for.

trucking is very unforgiving to new drivers. People get fired on their first mistake, and noobs are quite likely to make mistakes.

I'm not sure where you get that information. Sometimes it is true, but the driver has a lot to do with that usually. When a driver understands the dynamics of a meeting with the safety department they can usually keep from losing their job on a first time accident. We teach it all the time here. Be non-confrontational. Admit your mistake and be humble and teachable. Be willing to accept additional training. Where new drivers get in trouble is not accepting responsibility. That comes in a lot of different forms, but is most usually in defending oneself or laying blame elsewhere. Those things will definitely put you on the street looking for a job. We have had a lot of drivers share their experiences with us and we have helped a lot of them understand how to handle their first mistake or accident. We have even seen new drivers keep their jobs after roll-over accidents. Generally the major carriers will give you a three strikes and you are out policy, but that is not written in stone because they want to measure a new drivers response to an accident before granting them some leniency. This problem of getting fired for one little accident is much more common among small carriers and/or local driving positions. When a new driver gets on with a national carrier in an OTR position, they are much more likely to be given some degree of help and training in response to a first time accident.

49% of people have admitted to trying marijuana now, as it has been legalized, and that "mistake" follows them around for three months to a year with a hair follicle test. It seems the trucking companies are only getting more picky.

Legalization of marijuana is limited to specific states. Your CDL is still something that allows you to be involved in interstate commerce on a federal level. There is no federal legalization of marijuana. We may not like that and we may not agree with it, but it is what it is. Trucking is a federally regulated industry. We have to abide by their rules. This is also a safety sensitive position. Are you recommending they loosen up on their safety requirements? They are picky because they have a tremendous amount of scrutiny they must endure. They are also picky because there are lawyers who are hell-bent on bankrupting them for their own personal gain. And whether you believe it or not, they are actually concerned about public safety. Why do you think they would take on the extra expense of going beyond what is required for drug testing to make sure they have safe drivers? I can tell you as a long time employee of a large trucking company, they stress safety to us each and every day. Nobody pushes us to be unsafe. In fact I have been forced to shut down by management due to bad weather numerous times when I thought I could keep operating in a safe manner. If they are picky, they have reasons they consider to be worthwhile.

is there some trick to staying signed in on this website? I'm constantly getting signed out.

The only time I experience this is if I have to leave my computer and do something else for a while. There is a time limit for non-activity. I am not sure what it is but I think it is about thirty minutes. Try to keep active and doing something when here. If you just sit on one page without any activity taking place you are more likely to get timed out. I'm not even sure if that is what is happening to you or not, but I do know that you can get timed out if you are just sitting and not doing anything.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

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.

Interstate Commerce:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Delco Dave's Comment
member avatar

I dont think the pay is too much of a factor with the driver shortage, the pay is actually really good once you figure out the job. I think the bigger problem keeping a lot of potentially good drivers/employees out of the business is the time away from home. Way more people would be entering the trucking workforce if they could be home every week. Maybe somewhere down the line these OTR companies will come up with a regional swap system similar to linehaul to move a nice chunk of their freight which would allow people to get home regularly. Of course true OTR would still be there for people who want to run for weeks on end

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

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.

Linehaul:

Linehaul drivers will normally run loads from terminal to terminal for LTL (Less than Truckload) companies.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning them to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.
Chuck B.'s Comment
member avatar

Can they reach the pedals?

I know it’s true Short truckers are in high demand

Kerry L.'s Comment
member avatar

I'm looking at getting back into driving, which I did a long time ago for a few years, but I can say with certainty that most, if not all, of the blue collar trades industries are experiencing shortages and difficulty in hiring. My current job is in CNC programming, and there are a lot of job openings that employers are struggling to fill. Same thing with carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc.

Several of you have mentioned that it's not necessarily an overall shortage, but a shortage of good, skilled drivers. The same is true of all the trades, at least it is where I live.

For many years, the push was "get a college degree," and that push is still there. Skilled trades have been pushed into what is perceived by many as a lower class and/or less desirable occupation. That in itself is wrong and a shame. Skilled trades can offer substantial income, and a very comfortable lifestyle, without the massive college debt, and truck driving is right in there. None of the trades is a good fit for just anybody, but too many have bought into the "get a degree" mindset, and then end up with a mountain of debt and a degree that doesn't offer much in the way of a solid career.

Don't misunderstand: I'm not anti-college. For many, it is a great choice. I'm just saying that the trades industries are also a great choice for the right person, but too many won't even consider it.

The other problem is that many trades just don't pay well enough in comparison to the cost of living like they used to. Look at trucking. Increase in cost of living has far outpaced the increases in wages in trucking over the past 40 years. In order to be consistent with the increase in cost of living since the 1970s, the average yearly wage for a truck driver should be about $80,000-90,000, and I am probably low-balling that. Pretty much any worker with a high valued trade could buy a nice home, fully furnish it; buy a new car every 3 years; send kids to college; and live comfortably without much financial strain. Now, anyone with a high value trade is typically just making ends meet and hoping that a medical emergency doesn't come along to completely ruin them. It's out of necessity that many people don't consider trucking and other valued trades for careers. A college degree still typically earns slightly better than a vocational trade.

Kerry L.'s Comment
member avatar

I dont think the pay is too much of a factor with the driver shortage, the pay is actually really good once you figure out the job. I think the bigger problem keeping a lot of potentially good drivers/employees out of the business is the time away from home. Way more people would be entering the trucking workforce if they could be home every week. Maybe somewhere down the line these OTR companies will come up with a regional swap system similar to linehaul to move a nice chunk of their freight which would allow people to get home regularly. Of course true OTR would still be there for people who want to run for weeks on end

The pay caps don't give an incentive to drive for more than 5 to 10 years, so pay really is a fundamental aspect as to why there is such high turnover and why there is a shortage, albeit self-inflicted in some respects.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

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.

Linehaul:

Linehaul drivers will normally run loads from terminal to terminal for LTL (Less than Truckload) companies.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning them to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.
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