The truck driver shortage is one of the biggest issues the North American trucking industry faces today.

TRUCK DRIVER SHORTAGE 2020 THE DIRTY TRUTH NO ONE WANTS TO TALK ABOUT

What is the Truck Driver Shortage?

There appears to be a shortage of qualified professional truck drivers because drivers are leaving the industry and searching for jobs that offer better pay, benefits and working conditions.

They’re simply not happy or satisfied with the lifestyle driving a truck for a living provides. And who can fault them for this?

Is There TRULY a Shortage of Drivers?

However, we are of the belief that the truck driver shortage is a really a myth.

There are many individuals with the training and skills needed to fill these truck driving job positions.

But due to low pay and less than desirable working conditions, many are leaving the industry, in search of a better career.

Others are lured into the trucking industry as drivers, thinking they will fill these positions and make a good living for themselves and their families.

Once they begin driving, they discover the trucking industry has a history of treating drivers unfairly and paying them low wages.

Truck Driver Shortage in US + Canada

Statistics show that there is a shortage of truck drivers for the year 2019.

Currently, Canada reports being short around 25,000 truck drivers while the US reports a whopping shortage of around 60,000 drivers.

This is predicted to increase over the next few years.

Related > Top Trucking Companies in Canada to Consider For a Trucking Career

Highway and mountain in background

Why A Truck Driver Shortage? Here’s 10 Reasons Why

  • High Driver Turnover. The main reason is contributed to the astounding driver turnover rates, that have currently exceeded 90 percent for some time now.

The shortage of truck drivers is not due to the lack of individuals interested in becoming drivers.

There are lots of potential drivers interested in becoming career truck drivers, but once many of them discover the low pay, the lack of respect, the often poor working conditions and the demands of the job, they abandon the idea.

When they feel underappreciated and underpaid, truck drivers currently in the industry, are leaving their jobs to look for something that offers better pay, benefits and working conditions.

  • Low wages – There was a time when truck drivers made good money for their hard work. That is no longer true.

The cost of living has greatly increased but wages have not kept up with the cost of living. In fact, wages are so low with some trucking companies, that it’s simply no longer worth the sacrifices the drivers make for the job.

Interesting to note this started with Deregulation.

Now with combined with low shipping rates for freight, there isn’t much left over to sufficiently compensate the driver, thus the low wages.

  • Too much work unpaid. Most drivers don’t get paid for all their time worked.

Most companies pay drivers mileage instead of for the time they invest in driving or their special skills.

Often, they get nothing for the time they spend stuck in traffic jams, construction zones, bad weather or any of the other delays they encounter when on the road.

Pay based on mileage also raises safety concerns. Driver may push too hard and stay on the road even when they know they need to rest because if they don’t, it lowers their pay even more.

  • Restricted driving hours. The trucking industry is heavily regulated.

All drivers that keep a Duty Status Record must use an E.L.D. to track their Hours of Service to prove they follow these rules.

The ELD tells the driver when he can be on the road and when he should be off duty.

However, if a driver is delayed for any reason during his allotted driving time, he loses miles and money and there is nothing he can do about it.

  • Unfair fines. The FMCSA’s order was designed to ensure commercial trucking companies conduct business in a safe manner and to fine drivers that break the law.

However, sometimes revenue-based enforcement states often charge drivers fines they may not really deserve.

This comes out of the driver’s paychecks, reducing their overall pay even more.

Related > The ELD Mandate– The Facts + The Future

  • An Uncertain Future. Some truck drivers are afraid to depend on a truck driving and fear being replaced by autonomous trucks.

They are available now but not reliable enough to pose a problem.

But one day they might. After all, technology is always changing and improving.

  • Unfair treatment of drivers. While many trucking companies treat their drivers with respect, many others take advantage of them.

For example, companies that use the mileage system may expect drivers to perform other duties when between loads without providing extra pay.

These duties include a variety of jobs such as performing safety checks, participating in company meetings and seminars, loading and unloading the trailer, or waiting time.

  • High Level of Risk. A truck driver’s job is risky and dangerous.
  • In addition to spending long hours on the road, driving a truck is much more difficult than smaller vehicles.
  • Drivers must be alert and know how to handle their truck.
  • Loads shift and accidents do happen occasionally.
  • Driving in bad weather, on rough roads, delivering to unsafe areas and driving for long hours to make deadlines, place the driver in risky situations.
  • Some deliveries involve hauling hazard chemicals and other dangerous substances that could also put the driver’s health at risk.

But there isn’t much extra compensation for doing a dangerous job.

Big Rig Driving in Fog and Storm
  • Time away from family and friends. Truck drivers basically live on the road for days at a time, so they spend a lot of time away from their home, loved ones and friends. This is time they can’t replace.

When this less than desirable lifestyle is added to poor wages and few benefits, it’s enough to make anyone walk away and look for a new career.

  • Some companies scam drivers. There are a few ways that companies can easily scam their drivers.
  • One very common scam is to short drivers on mileage.
  • Another scam involves offering drivers big incentive plans and bonuses to make up for their low mileage rates.

Related > D.O.T. Hours of Service Explained

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How a Company Can Benefit From Mileage ‘Mistakes’

If a 500 truck fleet shorts each of it’s drivers 

  • 25 miles/day, at .35 mile = $4375 they’ve saved in wages.
  • That’s $131,250 per month or $1,575,000 per year in unpaid wages.
  • And that’s only for a 500 truck fleet at 25 miles per day.

Imagine a mega carrier with 5000 trucks or more, shorting their drivers even more than 25 miles each day?

Who says there isn’t money in trucking?

That money is stolen money from shorting drivers’ wages.

2 Truckers Talking by their Truck

DRIVER TIP. Ask your company to see the printouts of your mileage from mileage program with your pays.

The program print out automatically states at the top, practical or shortest routings.

If the company won’t include a copy of the printout with your pay, take that as a sign you are being cheated.

There’s no reason not to show a driver the printout.

They claim to be calculating your miles correctly. They just need to hit the print button.

Row of White Fleet Big Rig Trucks

What the Trucking Industry Has Done to Help Solve the Driver Shortage

Trucking companies are not yet willing to share the wealth with they’re drivers, so the shortage keeps growing.

These problems contribute to the high driver turnover rates that are responsible for the truck driver shortage.

However, in all fairness, many of them are just figuring all of this out and some do truly understand it’s time for a change.

Recognizing these problems and how they affect the future of the trucking industry, some companies have tried to make improvements to their pay rates and the packages they offer drivers.

Increased Mileage Rate. Some companies offer higher mileage rates and bonuses to encourage people to sign up as a driver.

Unfortunately, many drivers seem to feel like it’s not enough to keep them on the road. It’s a good first start but there is still a long way to go.

Recruiting Foreign Drivers + Other Groups. Some companies are reaching out to a bigger audience to find potential drivers by recruiting women, ex-military personnel and foreign workers.

They’re also looking for younger drivers by pushing to have the age lowered from 21 to 18.

Some companies hire immigrants that work for less pay and expect few benefits.

Many of them need the job to stay in North America or they have other reasons for dealing with the unfair treatment truck drivers deal with.

However, they too may also lose interest in the trucking industry when they realize they’re not making enough money to live decently.

What will the trucking industry do then?

Longer trailers. Some companies are investing in longer trailers so they can move more freight per trip. Moving more per trip means fewer trips but it also means the driver is taking even more risks because these trucks are harder to handle. And they mat only get paid a few cents more per mile.

Now the question becomes, why doesn’t the trucking industry make changes to eliminate these problems?

Green Truck on Highway

The Trucking Industry’s Resistance to Improve Driver Pay

Paying drivers by the hour would be a more reasonable pay system for truck drivers, given the ELD system and other factors governing the driver’s time.

At an American Trucking Association management conference a few years ago,  Derek Leathers, CEO of Werner Enterprises, was asked if he’d considered paying his drivers by the hour.

At an American Trucking Association management conference a few years ago,  Derek Leathers, CEO of Werner Enterprises, was asked if he’d considered paying his drivers by the hour.

His reply? “It’s been a short consideration to be blunt.”

What did he mean by his comment?

It means he thought about it, but certainly not for very long.

Werner is a mega carrier. Leathers knows paying truckers by the hour would cost Werner too much money.

Leathers goes on to explain that Werner has many different pay incentive packages for drivers.

But, in our opinion, pay incentive and base pay are two different things.

Leathers is a bright man, no two ways about it.

His job however, is to attract drivers to Werner. He needs to pay them the least amount of money possible, in order to maximize Werner’s profits. That’s his focus, as Werner pays his salary.

Werner’s profitability depends on its operating costs as a company.

One of its highest costs, perhaps the highest, is driver wages.

The less money drivers earn, the lower Werner’s operating costs and the  higher Werner’s profit.

I’m sure the CEO’s of the big trucking companies think of truck drivers simply as a commodity to be used at the cheapest rates possible.

An Industry That Isn’t Willing to Fix the REAL Problems

It appears that the trucking industry may not see these things as a problem.

It’s been this way for years, so they view these issues as just being part of a truck driving job.

The trucking industry has a term for this which I’ve come to hate: “Industry Standard”.

So it’s become ‘industry standard’ to pay a truck driver a low wage?

Truck drivers should receive fair pay for the jobs they perform, just like everyone else.

The industry was able to pay the truck driver a good wage years ago. Why not now?

The job is even more challenging and dangerous now than it was many years ago and before deregulation.

The shocking driver turnover rates responsible for the truck driver shortage will continue to grow as the demand for drivers increase, unless steps are taken to fix these problems.

Trucking Industry Offerings Aren’t Working

As of now, it appears that the few incentives trucking companies are offering is not enough to attract enough new drivers to the industry.

There are too many other careers available to them that do pay a fair wage and offer great benefits.

Much of what the trucking companies are doing to work with the trucker shortage, can be viewed as temporary fixes. The fixes offer no long-term solution for the problems causing the driver shortage.

Then What WILL Solve the Shortage of Truck Drivers?

So, what’s the answer? How can the truck driver shortage be solved?

  • Companies must stop taking advantage of truck drivers.
  • Offer fair wages, affordable health insurance, a pension plan along with other benefits and incentives to attract old and new truckers to the industry. The pay must be worth the sacrifices drivers endure or there is no reason to pursue a career in this industry.
  • Make the job more appealing by making it more rewarding for the drivers. Offer better training programs along with apprentice programs to draw in more potential drivers.
  • Increasing freight rates can also make a difference. The money from the rate increase can pay for the truck driver pay increase. The overall view of truck drivers and the pay structure needs to be reviewed and updated to ensure drivers are compensated for the hard work and risks they take every time they get on the road.
  • A truck driving career should be a recognized trade. The job ought to be recognized by the governments as an official skilled trade, with decent truck driving training programs and apprentice programs.

There needs to be more stringent control over the training and wages of truckers.

Poor wages, benefits and a lack of respect is what started the shortage of drivers and it’s still fueling it today.

Correct the problems or one day, there will be large fleets of trucks sitting in parking lots with no one left to drive them.

Where will that leave the trucking industry and the nation?

Share the Wealth: Put More $$ in the Driver’s Pocket

Driving a truck for a living, for the average driver nowadays, simply doesn’t  cover the cost of paying the bills at home.

The cost of living on the road doesn’t allow for setting aside enough money for a rainy day or for a retirement fund.

The money is just not there anymore, which is too bad, because this was once a great job.

This was a great industry, even though there were sacrifices. But it paid well at one time.

It was worthwhile financially to drive for a living.

However, considering the low wages of the average truck driving job,  that’s no longer true anymore.

The trucking companies are going to have to get on the bandwagon and raise the pay because soon they’re going to find themselves simply out of good drivers.

And the problem will continue to grow out of control.

They may be able to get drivers from foreign shores, but the cost of the insurance claims of a cheaply paid, low skilled workforce, along with the damage the poorly trained drivers incur, will eventually put some of the carriers out of business.

They’re going to find themselves with huge fleets and no reliable drivers to drive the equipment.

It is pretty tough for a CEO these days to justify his new Mercedes, yards full of brand new equipment, hundreds of office staff, glass tower buildings, yet no one left  to drive the trucks.

These companies must re-evaluate their positions and soon. It’s coming. There’ll be nobody left that’s any good to drive these trucks.

Trucking does not pay enough anymore, and that must change.

And the nation needs the trucks.

Highway at sunset

The Future of Truck Drivers

So, what does all of this mean for the future of truck drivers?

With no real change in sight, the truck driver shortage is sure to get worse, before it ever gets better.

Truck drivers will continue to look for new opportunities and ways to make a living outside of the trucking industry if these problems are not addressed properly. 

It’s time for trucking companies to take a realistic look at the state of affairs in the trucking industry and acknowledge the real cause behind the shortage of drivers.

Then, take steps to find real solutions.

If drivers are not treated better soon and given fair pay, experienced, skilled drivers will continue to leave the industry.

In addition, potential drivers may reconsider their career choice and choose a job that does provide a fair wage for the work provided.

The industry needs drivers. But it appears that they’re not willing to make the necessary changes to keep the drivers they have and to attract and keep new blood in the industry.

It’s time for truck drivers to speak out and insist on better pay and benefits.

More importantly, it’s time for trucking companies to start listening.

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