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In recent years, headlines have warned about a shortage of truck drivers. The American Trucking Association (ATA) even stated before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation that this shortage could reach 150,000 within a decade. In this post, we delve into the reasons and search for an answer.
Statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration contradict the ATA’s predictions. This agency reports more than 500,000 new Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders each year.
In fact, it’s far more likely that the problem stems from the high turnover rate, a theory that’s reinforced by the 2019 study “Is the U.S. labor market for truck drivers broken?“
Demand Is Rising
Just as freight demand is on the rise, most large trucking companies face turnover rates of more than 90%. This basically means they’re working through a system of constantly revolving doors, where they’re hiring 20 drivers to make up for the 25 that left a week before.
This approach is clearly not ideal. For one thing, new operators tend to leave within 180 days from getting the job. In fact, they make up 85% of the turnover rate.
But the question remains: Why are so many truck drivers switching companies or quitting the industry altogether?
Organizational Problems Persist
Fleet managers and truck operators could not be more different in terms of personality. Fleet managers tend to be outgoing and gregarious. They’re comfortable working in a fast-paced environment.
On the other hand, truckers spend a lot of time by themselves. They want structure and consistency, but they bristle when managers speak to them in an authoritarian manner. This contrast leads to barriers in communication.
Managers think drivers are being difficult, while truckers feel managers treat them as extensions of their trucks and not as people.
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Then there’s the issue of delays. Often these delays come about from complications with dispatching and scheduling. These are not under the truck driver’s control. However, they cost drivers income.
This is because truckers’ incomes are based on the number of miles they drive. They don’t get paid for the time they spend waiting for managers to sort out delays.
Being a Truck Driver Is a Dangerous Job
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons truck operators are leaving the industry in droves is that commercial truck driving remains one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. In fact, there are more than half a million accidents involving freight trucks every year.
This is due, in part, to factors that fall outside the responsibility of trucking companies. For example, repairs to highways in recent years have not kept up with the increase in highway use.
Additionally, if you talk to a truck accident lawyer, they’ll probably tell you that many of these accidents are caused by driver fatigue.
Truck driving is a tiring job. This is because truckers have to keep moving to make money. Changes in regulations now limit the time truck drivers can spend behind the wheel, mandating a 10-hour break after 14 consecutive hours spent working.
This is a step in the right direction. However, it doesn’t solve the issue of inconsistent schedules that make it hard for drivers to get good quality sleep and follow healthy eating habits.
Drivers Are Unhappy with Their Work-Life Balance
Another big reason drivers are unhappy with their careers has to do with work-life balance. Long-haul truck operators can spend as many as two or three weeks on the road. As we said earlier, drivers have to keep moving to make money, and nobody said they have to spend those 10 hours of rest each day at home.
There’s a stereotype that truckers are loners, so being away from home really shouldn’t bother them. However, the reality is that many drivers have families they’re trying to provide for.
When a driver gets at best one or two full days to spend with their loved ones, they tend to miss a lot of birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and kids’ soccer or baseball games. Truckers miss a lot, and this takes its toll on their relationships and mental health.
What Is the Solution?
America’s truck drivers deserve appreciation and respect. After all, they’re the ones keeping retail store shelves stocked while the rest of us go on with our lives, oblivious to the ways in which we depend on them.
Perhaps the solution is manifold: more money from governments to improve and repair highways, better laws to protect the health and safety of truck drivers, and better pay structures for truckers from the companies whose very survival depends on the work truck drivers do.