We’ve said before that the so called “trucker shortage” is complete bullshit, and a new report from Business Insider confirms there are drivers — they’re just not interested in getting paid peanuts by the big shipping companies.
The American Trucking Associations has been beating this drum for decades. Most recently, it claimed that America is short a ludicrous 80,000 drivers. This number, and similar dire warnings from previous years, have generally been reported without much challenge from certain journalists. But the ATA is an industry lobbyist organization and such shock numbers work in its favor towards creating less regulation for mega corporations. Business Insider is calling the tactic what it is: total bullshit.
Jason Miller, associate professor of supply-chain management at Michigan State University, told Insider that there isn’t a shortage of truck drivers, just a shift in where they’re working.
They don’t want to drive for mega carriers anymore, he said.
“Rather than there being a shortage, we’ve seen that what economists would call a reallocation of drivers,” Miller said. As of January 2022, around 1.53 million Americans worked in the truck transportation industry, up by 0.9% from two years prior, per BLS data compiled by Miller and viewed by Insider.
Miller said many drivers had either become owner operators or started working for smaller carriers. He shared BLS data with Insider, which shows that the average size of US trucking establishments plummeted from 10.6 employees at the end of 2019 to 9.4 employees in the third quarter of 2021.
Some truckers say that they’re treated badly by mega carriers who want to “pay the drivers peanuts” and don’t cover the hours they can spend waiting at shippers and receivers. “You’re not a name, you’re a number,” Gary Otterson, a 20-year trucking veteran from Alabama, said. “They want to reduce the driver to an expendable resource.”
The answer to this supposed shortage, according to the huge companies that are a part of the ATA, is to allow teenagers to drive big rigs across state lines. Much like how someone in their 30s who dates a 19-year-old doesn’t make that teenager mature, it makes them easy to take advantage of, so too is the idea that teens are capable of long haul trucking. Car crashes are still the number one cause of death for teenagers. Putting them behind the wheel of a many-ton vehicle on a strict timetable and restricted sleep is a recipe for disaster, but the ATA’s dire warnings of a mega driver shortage pushed Congress to approve a pilot program earlier this year.
What this program ignores are the much easier solutions such as improving facilities and pay for the experienced drivers we already have. Such steps would go a long way to fill any supposed gaps. One expert told Congress that simply shaving off 18 minutes worth of the hours of waiting around truckers are subjected to at ports and pickup points would be the equivalent of 80,000 new drivers on the road.
Experts told BI that the massive rise in inflation can’t be tied to trucking either (another scare tactic by massive trucking companies.)
“People are seeing record ocean freight prices, record air freight prices, record truck transportation prices, and they want to blame that for the inflationary effects we’re seeing, and that’s just not what’s going on,” Miller said. He added that changes in commodity prices were largely behind current inflation.
The entire report is well worth your time and can be found here.