Recent trucking industry news point out the shortage of truck drivers this 2013, and some analysts have given their opinions regarding the causes of these manpower problems. Delcan Corporation and Roz Wilson, a senior analyst, estimated that most trucking companies in the US, Canada and the EU have a shortage of about 30,000 workers.
Reports also show that trucking industries struggle in recruiting truck drivers. Western Enterprise (WERN), for one, offers a $5,000 sign-on bonus, while Swift Transportation (SWFT) entices military veterans for a free tuition in their driving school. So, why the shortage?
Health and safety advocates, trucking companies and truck drivers have given five possible causes of this manpower shortage issues in the trucking industry. These are:
1. HOS New Rule for Truck Drivers
The new Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations were pointed out by most as one of the reasons for increasing truck driver demand and the difficulty in recruiting truck drivers. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) set a new rule effective this July that limits the driving hours of truck drivers. As announce by FMCSA, truck drivers are limited to a maximum average of 70 consecutive driving hours in 7 consecutive days. This had been reduced from the former 84 hours driving rule. In addition, truck drivers who completed the maximum of 70 consecutive hours may resume on duty only if they completed a 34 consecutive hours off duty and includes at least two nights rest. In other words, 10 hours a day of driving can reach up to 11 hours so long as it will not exceed the total 70 hours in a week. Furthermore, as a final rule, a 30-minute break is required from truck drivers after their first eight hours on duty.
The FMCSA emphasized that this regulation is to reduce fatigue for truck drivers. “Safety is our highest priority,” said Ray LaHood, U.S. Transportation Secretary. “These rules make common sense, data-driven changes to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety for every traveler on our highways and roads,” LaHood said.
Safety advocates continue to argue that there is an estimated probability of saving 19 lives each year. Also, 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries might be avoided. “These fatigue-fighting rules for truck drivers were carefully crafted based on years of scientific research and unprecedented stakeholder outreach,” said Anne S. Ferro, FMCSA Administrator. “The result is a fair and balanced approach that will result in an estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from improved driver health. Most importantly, it will save lives,” she added.
2. Poor Working Conditions
Several working conditions are pointed out as reasons contributing to the truck driver shortage. First, long hours of driving constitute lesser hours of sleep, especially if deliveries are far beyond the schedule.
The vice president of G&P Trucking outside Columbia, Steve McCourt also said, “There’s a quality-of-life issue. In other words, a driver is out on the road and not at home, so he doesn’t spend every night at home.”
Second, “There’s pay issues, where people believe the industry has to work hard to get the driver pay up, which we believe too.” said McCourt.
Third, John Lannen, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition said, “Drivers are overworked, underpaid and have high healthy risks”.
3. Baby Boomers Retirement
According to BLS, the required age for a truck driver is 21 years old and retires at 55. Today, many baby boomers are retiring and will be retiring which will cause the shortage of truck drivers at an even higher rate. It has been reported that many trucking companies are trying to recruit fresh graduates.
4. What On-Duty Truck Drivers Have to Say
“Just read your articles on 4 main reasons why drivers quit. It all applies in my case. Low pay, not getting paid for work (namely detention pay) and home time. Like so many bad companies, they really don’t care about the drivers at all. When I quit, I told my driver manager I was returning my truck to (one of their drop yards.) Anyway, they (reported) that I abandoned my truck, and of course have placed the comment on my DAC Report. I really don’t see the Trucking Industry ever changing. I am finished with commercial truck driving after only 2.5 years and a perfect flawless driving record. So, the industry loses another good safe driver,” said a veteran truck driver in the US.
The driver also reported in DAC a common practice of trucking companies to get drivers laid off before the bonus date arrives. He did not receive his $1,000 rehire bonus.
5. No Miles to Run
As you try to listen to more truck drivers, there’s much that they want to say. Another veteran truck driver expressed sentiment saying: “You have got to be joking. A truck driver shortage? I’ve been hearing this for 30 years. There is no shortage. What you have is a shortage of pay and not enough miles. Who wants to go out for 70 hours a week, beat their bodies to death and receive a dirt paycheck for all of their work? There needs to be a major crackdown on this industry by the Department of Labor because these trucking companies do things to the drivers that you would not believe!”
Hence, recruitment for truck drivers became scarce despite new techniques of hiring as posted by some trucking companies. Werner Enterprise (WERN) posted a $5,000 sign-on bonus offer, while Swift Transportation (SWFT) provides free tuition for its driving school. Similar to the former is this ad: “All you need to do is sign up for classes at a trucking school so you can learn how to handle a big rig and pass your driving test. From there you’ll be ready to sign on with a trucking company and start bringing in as much as $50,000 per year.” Still, 30,000 truck drivers are needed.