Driver shortage? OOIDA president says there’s no such thing
May 23, 2018
During a segment on the Fox Business show Varney & Co. on Wednesday, May 23, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association President Todd Spencer said the trucking industry’s perceived driver shortage is a myth.
Stuart Varney, the show’s host, opened the segment by saying the trucking industry ended last year with a shortfall of 51,000 drivers. Spencer quickly pointed out that trucking companies that pay and treat their drivers well do not have any difficulties finding people who want to work for them.
“The dilemma that you talk about with a shortage, we’ve been hearing that for 25 years and it kind of speaks to the economic dysfunction that has become the norm for a certain segment of trucking,” Spencer said. “Private carriers – shippers that haul their own goods – they have no shortage of drivers. LTL companies, they have no shortage of drivers. The characteristics of those companies are that they pay their drivers well and they have good working conditions, so drivers come and stay.”
Spencer said the real issue is some trucking companies’ inability to prevent turnover. According to a March report from the American Trucking Associations, the driver turnover rate at big motor carrier was 88 percent. The previous quarter was at 95 percent.
“In actual numbers, there isn’t any (truck driver shortage),” Spencer said. “I think you mentioned a 51,000 shortage. Each year, over 400,000 new drivers receive CDLs. These are new people who pursue careers in trucking. They don’t last very long.
“Workers will come to jobs that actually have a future. So much of trucking is for-hire, publicly traded companies, and the mantra with all of those companies is to increase productivity and lower cost of labor. That has applied to drivers through the decades. Real incomes for truck drivers are less than half than what they would be adjusted with the consumer price index over the last two-and-a-half decades. That’s the real issue, and that’s the real issue that has to be dealt with if you want to correct the problem.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2017 median pay for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $42,480 per year.
“There are a lot (of truck drivers) who work for less than $50,000, and they work really, really hard,” Spencer said. “The typical work week for a truck driver is 70-80 hours, and drivers basically work around the schedules of everyone else. Their time is not their own. They work 70-80 hours, and there are usually another 20-30 hours each week that you spend just waiting to load or unload. That’s part of the economic dysfunction that makes this an occupation that people don’t want to pursue as a career. And it’s nutty. The most important person in trucking is the person behind the wheel, and that’s the one who virtually always gets short shrift throughout the supply chain.”
Varney, who began the segment by attempting to blame the lack of truck drivers on marijuana use, conceded that $50,000 isn’t a lot of money for what the job entails.
“I take your point, Todd,” Varney said. “I’m not sure I would want to work all those hours in difficult situations facing heavy traffic and all those rules and regulations for $50,000 a year. I take your point.”
Spencer ended the segment by highlighting that an increase in regulations has also been driving many experienced and safe drivers out of the industry.
“The regulations have made it even worse,” he said. “Under the guise of safety, we have experienced drivers — million-mile safe drivers — that are saying ‘the heck with it. This isn’t worth it. I’ll find something else to do.’ And that’s happening all across the country.”