The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) reports that there will be a shortage of 200,000 to 400,000 truck drivers in the U.S. over the next few years, while as of Dec. 31. As of August 2006, there were 12.9 million CDL driver records in the Commercial Driver License Information System (CDLIS), with an average growth rate of nearly 40,000 new CDLs per month, 50% of which are CDL holders who are not using their licenses in their truck driving jobs.
Although this is a manufactured “crisis,” this headline continues to attract the attention of the mainstream media. There has never been a shortage of truck drivers in the U.S., and to fully understand the reasons for this so-called crisis, we need to examine several aspects of the trucking industry.
The scaremongering used by the trucking industry to report a shortage of truck drivers has been a tactic used for decades. The most recent term, “qualified driver shortage,” was coined following the introduction of the Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program. Because of this program, one could conclude that there is a shortage of qualified truck drivers, but only because of other regulations introduced into the industry.
Motor carriers are now looking for “perfect” CDL drivers who have no blemishes on their CSA/PSP scores because the CSA program now makes both the driver and the carrier responsible and accountable for safety issues. In the past, only the driver was held responsible for safety violations, even if the violation was the direct fault of the carrier, such as a problem with a truck or trailer that the carrier was slow to fix.
Due to the many new regulations that have hit the industry and the political maneuvering between the industry and safety groups, many drivers are leaving the profession and potential new drivers are avoiding it for several reasons.
With a looming shortage of 200,000 to 400,000 CDL drivers, why aren’t so many recessionary and underemployed workers entering the professional trucking industry? While drivers face stricter government safety regulations and higher professionalism requirements from carriers, CDL driver wages remain low. Wages for truck drivers have remained virtually the same for at least 30 years. Check this Website A driver recruitment ad published in 1978 listed a starting wage of .36 cents per mile, which is still close to the average wage today in 2012, thirty-four years later.
In addition to stagnant wages, truckers and CSAs face other potential mandates, such as EOBRs, sleep apnea tests, maximum BMI, little or no pay for detention time, anti-suspension laws, rising fuel prices, law enforcement and general public attitudes, lack of APU’s for safety comfort, stricter hours of service rules, forced dispatch, carrier retaliation through the DAC report, starvation process, lack of adequate time at home, and the 70 hour work week.
Due to the constant influx of regulations, many consider professional truck driving not worth the effort. Perhaps the main reason is that truck drivers are considered “unskilled labor” by the U.S. Department of State and the Wage and Hour Division.
The classification of adult workers as “unskilled labor” is tied to the global economy, as 70% of U.S. workers currently fall into this classification. The classification of workers as “unskilled labor” keeps wages at a minimum level, which is obviously a great benefit to the trucking industry, which is the largest private industrial sector in North America.
Professional truckers are expected to work 70 hours a week and try to cover as many miles as possible for pennies per mile. The standard mileage per week is set at 2,500 miles, which is still not achievable for many drivers. A new driver in the industry can drive 2,500 miles per week at a cost of .27 cents per mile and receive a weekly wage of $675.00 for what is called 70 hours of work. That’s $9.64 per hour of gross pay. An experienced driver driving 2,500 miles per week at a rate of .36 cents per mile and working 70 hours per week will earn