OOIDA to Department of Commerce: It’s a driver turnover problem

August 24, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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In order to correct the driver turnover problem plaguing the trucking industry, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says steps must be taken to make the profession a “rewarding and long-term career.”

OOIDA wrote to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Tuesday, Aug. 24 as a rebuttal to a recent letter from the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force that asked the department to address the industry’s “driver shortage.”

The Association’s rebuttal letter tells Raimondo that claims of a driver shortage are “mythical” and that making more drivers eligible to enter the trucking industry will not help the retention problem if nothing is done to improve pay and working conditions. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently cited turnover rates for large carriers at 90% or above.

“The Department of Commerce, along with the administration’s Supply Chain Task Force, must prioritize resolving the underlying circumstances that have led to excessive churn,” OOIDA wrote in a letter signed by Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh. “Otherwise, we anticipate turnover rates will remain precariously high or even increase no matter how many new drivers are eligible to enter the industry.”

Driver turnover problem

OOIDA informed Raimondo that more than 400,000 new commercial driver’s licenses are issued each year and that the U.S. Department of Labor found no indications of a driver shortage when it examined the issue in 2019.

“For decades, our country’s largest motor carriers and the trade associations that represent them have perpetuated the myth of a driver shortage to promote policies that maintain the cheapest labor supply possible,” OOIDA wrote. “We encourage the Department of Commerce to follow the Department of Transportation’s lead and finally focus on improving driver retention to address supply chain disruption rather than expanding driver pools.”

Those who claim there is a driver shortage often are proponents of such plans as lowering the minimum driving age of long-haul truckers from 21 to 18. In July, the Department of Transportation and Department of Labor hosted a driver retention roundtable aimed at looking for ways to make trucking a more desirable long-term career.

The roundtable, as well as recent Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and driver subcommittee meetings, have called attention to the need for increased truck parking capacity, fair levels and methods of compensation, the repeal of the overtime exemption, better driver training programs, and the elimination of excessive detention time.

“Addressing these inefficiencies will repair supply chain vulnerabilities in a far more sustainable manner than simply allowing more drivers to enter the industry,” OOIDA wrote. LL

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.