There is no driver shortage – the proof is in the paperwork

October 29, 2019

Terry Scruton


You know the old politician’s fallback statement – I can neither confirm nor deny those rumors. It’s usually said at a time when everyone else under the sun has already confirmed those rumors and we’re just waiting for said politician to resign in disgrace.

Well, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a couple of items recently that show the agency is apparently trying to both confirm and deny rumors – or rather myths – of a driver shortage.

It started with a news release on a program aimed at finding jobs in trucking for military veterans in which Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao herself proclaimed, “Our country has a shortage of truck drivers.”

Of course OOIDA has been saying for years that this is a bunch of you-know-what. Say it with me now: It’s not a driver shortage problem, it’s a driver turnover problem – in spite of what certain elements of the trucking industry *cough* ATA *cough* would have you believe.

They’ve said it so many times now they’ve even got the head of the U.S. DOT parroting it. Trouble is, this myth, this rumor, is just not true.

Which brings us to the other side of our conflicting coin. The FMCSA seemingly admitted the truth itself in a notice posted to the Federal Register this week.

As part of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, government agencies are required to periodically file updates on the paperwork burden created by certain regulations.

This particular one is the regulation that requires trucking companies to keep and maintain driver qualification files. For owner-operators this has always been a strange one, anyway. You basically have to be both boss and employee at the same time and keep a file on yourself that says you’re qualified to drive a truck. Sometimes being a truck driver comes with a split personality.

At any rate, the FMCSA says the paperwork burden for this particular bit of bureaucracy has gone up since the last time it filed a report in 2016. Any guesses as to why? Here’s what the agency had to say, in its own words:

“The Agency increases its estimate of the total (Information Collection) burden of these regulations primarily because both the number of CMV drivers and the frequency of their hiring have increased since the Agency’s 2016 estimate of this burden.”


Not clear enough for you? OK, how about this:

“The increase in burden hours is primarily the result of a larger driver population and a higher driver turnover rate, both of which affect the volume of documents produced and filed in DQ files.”

It’s all right there in black and white from the FMCSA itself: we have a larger driver population and a higher driver turnover rate.

Now you tell me, how could either of those things be remotely possible if we have a driver shortage? It’s simple: they couldn’t. And we don’t.

Sometimes working at OOIDA feels like being in a body snatchers movie. One by one, people both in the trucking industry and in the mainstream media become brainwashed with this idea of a driver shortage. Meanwhile we keep screaming the truth at anyone who will listen while those listeners seemingly become fewer and further between. And now the body snatchers have gotten to Elaine Chao, even as one of her own agencies undercuts what she’s saying in the same week – actually a day later. The same agency that put out the news release wherein she said the offending statement, I might add. It’s enough to make your head spin.

But spin is one thing we’ve had enough of around here. We’re all about the truth. And the truth is there is no driver shortage. Never has been. Don’t believe us? We’ve got the paperwork to back it up. If it’s not too much of a burden, that is.

Land Line Media staffers are all about dispelling rumors and myths.

Lucas Oil

Terry Scruton brought nine years of journalism experience when he joined Land Line Magazine in 2005, and that experience continues to serve him on the radio show. Terry’s must-read “Roses & Razzberries” is also a popular feature with Land Line Now listeners.