Then there’s the long, lonely periods away from home, sleeping in cramped truck cabs and using restrooms and taking showers at truck stops—when available, weather conditions, threats to personal safety, worsening infrastructure, and penny-pinching management and customers. Why put up with all of this when there are other jobs to be had?
On top of that, the federal government has instituted a number of truck-operating regulations in recent years that—with the best of intentions for safety—have further limited the availability of truck drivers (see feature story, “Assessing the ATA’s agenda,” pages 38-43).
None of this is anything new to the domestic freight transportation industry and those shippers who rely on this mode. However, the economic recession and slow recovery of the past several years has allowed the industry to kick the can of the impending driver shortage down the road. As long-haul truck requirements have picked up among the nation’s shippers, this reality is now setting in.
Perhaps for too long, truckers in this country have been taken for granted. Shippers would say, “Someone will come for our freight because they’re hungry for business.” Yes, the carrier may be hungry for business, but the truck driver hauls the freight to make a living. Without a driver in the seat, that truck doesn’t move.
Pat Barber, chief executive officer of trucking firm Superior Transportation, told an audience during last year’s South Carolina International Trade Conference, “The quality of life for the driver has diminished to the point where they just don’t feel like they get any respect and they can go to work in other industries with the same or better compensation.”
And for millennials or those individuals born after 2000, the up-and-coming workforce, the quality of their work experience factors greatly into whether they will stay with an employer or in a particular industry.
American shippers can no longer ignore the plight of the nation’s dwindling truck driver pool. They need to address the issue fast, just as much as the carriers themselves.
Keeping truckers coming to one’s factory or warehouse location doesn’t need to cost a fortune. It may be as simple as keeping the truck lot free of clutter to ensure maneuverability of trailers, and offering an inviting space for truckers to stretch their legs, use a restroom and chat with others while they wait for their trailers to be emptied or loaded. Showing some compassion and respect goes a long way to letting those hard-working truckers know their profession is appreciated and has a future.
This editorial was published in the July 2015 issue of American Shipper.