OOIDA’s message of no driver shortage hits mainstream

December 9, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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Over the summer, you would have been hard-pressed to find a single news article from the mainstream media about the trucking industry that didn’t include references to a driver shortage.

The headlines during that time were dominated by such provocative tales as one trucking company offering to pay $14,000 per week because the nationwide truck driver shortage had gotten so bad.

Really, the American Trucking Associations’ claim of a driver shortage has been the message relayed by mainstream media for years. ATA would issue a report that says the industry is short tens of thousands of drivers and the shortage will reach six figures in the next decade. Then lawmakers would repeat those claims at House and Senate hearings, and reporters would write about the truck driver shortage as fact.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, of course, refuted those claims for years. But, too often, the truck drivers’ side of the story didn’t make it into the largest newspapers, magazines and news websites.

That has finally started to change.

Check out some of these headlines published in recent weeks:

Of course, you can still find plenty of mainstream news articles making claims of a truck driver shortage, but the above sampling of headlines marks a major shift in the narrative. Instead of just relaying ATA’s message of a driver shortage and promoting such “solutions” as allowing 18-year-olds to drive long haul or automation, more reporters are starting to ask questions and reach out to such organizations as OOIDA for answers.

Many recent news articles have quoted OOIDA and other trucking experts who say the issue is more of a driver retention problem because of low pay and difficult working conditions. They cite a driver turnover rate of 90% or larger among the large fleets.

“Most of the very people saying we have the shortage know exactly how to correct the turnover problems. They just choose not to do it.” – OOIDA President Todd Spencer

“What they really need is really cheap, really flexible drivers.” – Steve Viscelli, economic sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania

“I think if consumers really understood what it was like for the truck drivers who deliver all their goods, they might be a little embarrassed or ashamed.” – David Correll, a research scientist at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics

“There’s no shortage of workers. That’s the narrative that gets propagated by industry leaders.” – Mike Chavez, executive director of the Inland Empire Labor Institute

 

The inspiration for the MarketWatch headline also came from OOIDA’s Spencer.

“The reality is, if the job that you’re offering sucks, is the solution really to go find more suckers, or should you improve the job so people will come and stay?”

In recent months, Spencer also appeared on CNN to let the public know the driver shortage is a myth, and OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh spread the news on the “Glenn Beck Program.”

Now is the time for truck drivers to capitalize on this momentum. Reach out to your lawmakers and send them a link to one of these articles. Let them know that the issue is a retention problem and can only be fixed by taking steps to make truck driver a more lucrative and attractive career. 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.