Truck News


Drivers Speak Out on the Driver Shortage Issue

I have been writing a blog on a variety of freight transportation issues for the past 5 years. None has generated as much feedback as my two postings on the subject of driving a truck and driver shortages. While my blogs can be read in multiple locations, the two recent ones on this topic have received over 2500 hits and 60 comments on the Truck News site alone, many from drivers.
I have read all of the comments and they encouraged me to reach out to some folks in the field to do a “deeper dive” into the “driver shortage” issue. As a result, I contacted three truck drivers and sent them a list of questions. David Robson was the one who helped me write the article on a “Driver’s Perspective on the Current State of Trucking.” The other two (e.g. Stephen Large, Desiree Wood) are prominent truckers who took the time to share their feedback on the blog. Here are their thoughts.
One of the recurring themes that I kept hearing is that despite the common perception that we have a “driver shortage” in North America, this is not an accurate description of the current situation. So my first question to the three drivers was to obtain their thoughts on this question. Do we or do we not have a driver shortage? Here is what they said.
Dave stated, “I feel we have a driver retention problem that is created by a lack of extensive driver orientation and training from the hiring trucking companies. This leaves the newly hired drivers to learn the company and driver policies on their own. In their frustration they find it easier to quit and move on. I am sure that the compensation was acceptable when they agreed to work for the company.
Problem number two I feel is driver dispatch compatibility. Many dispatchers are not people oriented and therefore drivers cannot work with their dispatch and again find it easier to quit and move on.”
Stephen noted that “I am one of the people who does not believe there is a shortage of truck drivers! More than half of the people I know who have a class 1 license DO NOT DRIVE A TRUCK for a living. And they WON’T! I CAN find a good driver to drive for me (even with my 20-30 year old trucks), but I have to pay $35-$40/hr. And it has to be local work, or they are not interested. There are too many ridiculous rules and regulations in the industry and shippers/receivers treat drivers poorly almost without fail! . . . If the drivers have to go where they are to be loaded or unloaded by some dork on a forklift or a smart Alek crane operator who WILL NOT take ANY instruction on where to put the load on the trailer or which way to put it so the axle weights work out, then most experienced drivers would prefer not to get involved!”
“I do believe that the pressure is being felt by carriers who are committed to keep wages low and therefore more pressure is needed to expose the true nature of driver turnover. The solution is common sense, pay a living wage, do not treat drivers like second class citizens and expect them to act as professionals who bear the brunt of enormous conflicting regulations” commented Desiree.
“The ‘qualified driver shortage’ as it has been re-branded since 2008 sends a message to veteran drivers that the industry intends to eliminate experience . . . in favor of . . . lower paid, less experienced student truck drivers and CSA will assist the industry to accomplish this task.
The industry of student truck drivers provides an economic benefit by way of commission structures to recruit new candidates into trucking who are unfamiliar with the volume of unpaid labor they will be expected to perform and by the time they figure it out they have created a low wage workforce for carriers. The bonus is that they arrive with a clean CSA slate.
As long as training and pay are not addressed there will always be a so-called ‘driver shortage’ because it makes sense to keep labor costs down. The ‘Qualified’ driver shortage should be defined more accurately. If a carrier requires two or more years of experience, the industry should focus attention on training carriers who are supposed to be producing qualified candidates.”
The next set of questions had to do with driver compensation. A recent report from the Canadian Trucking Alliance Blue Ribbon Panel set out the following objectives for driver pay.
“Truck drivers should have an improved ability to predict what their weekly pay is going to be.”
“Truck Drivers should be paid for all work that they do and earn enough to cover all reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred while on the road for extended periods.”
“Truck drivers should have an improved ability to predict what their weekly pay is going to be.”
I then asked our three drivers for their thoughts on the issue of driver pay, specifically the issue of hourly pay and compensating drivers for non-driving time (e.g. waiting time). Here is what they had to say.
“Relatively speaking yes, (drivers should be able to predict what their weekly pay is going to be) within 10-15% variance,” stated David. “The revenue will never be consistent as public demand and economic trends will determine the amount of freight to be moved. The better diversified a company is with their freight accounts, the better it will be able to provide consistent revenue. Unfortunately freight charges do not cover waiting times, lay-overs or unforeseen interruptions. Any compensation that is given beyond what has been calculated in the freight cost is straight off the profit margin. With enough bad customers, a company could be at a 0% profit margin trying to compensate their drivers. It is sad but real.
I think that (hourly pay) is excellent. If we could raise freight rates by 20% then perhaps more companies would incorporate an hourly rate without fear of losing their shirts. Black boxes or satellites would need to be installed in every truck to monitor working hours and non- working hours.
I feel that compensation may have to be given using the law of averages flat rate method in this lovely unpredictable world of trucking. Let’s say the company’s hourly rate is $20 per hour. Each . . . (type of non-driving) . . . compensation would require documenting or monitoring for driver legitimacy of time.
Pre- trip inspections = ½ hr. x 20= $10.00.
Border Crossing is an average of 1 hour = $20.00.
Unload/load time is based on 2 hour average x 20= $40.00.
Waiting time in excess of 2 hours can be paid at the minimum wage rate of the trucking companies region. For example, if it takes 5 hours to load, it would be (2×20) + (3x 10.50) = $ 51.50. Driving times could be paid hourly at a rate of .40 cents per trip . . . (assuming) . . . 50 miles per hour average trip speed= $20.00/hr. This would compensate for lost wages due to traffic jams, geographic hurdles and city driving.
This type of payment schedule I feel is predictable enough to calculate freight rates and compensate the driver. We have to have a pay structure predictable within 5% of the freight rate, I feel, in order to be competitive and sustain our drivers’ need for compensation.”
Stephen expressed the view is that “Hourly pay is the ONLY way to attract/keep good drivers! (My idea of a good driver is one who can drive any combination from a body job to a 8 axle B-train anywhere, in any weather, hauling any product for several years without . . . causing damage to the truck, trailer, freight, road, and especially other vehicles.).
Everything that the driver does under the direction of the employer should be paid for! Pre-trips and all necessary paperwork required by the company or by law should be done while the driver is getting paid . . . it is not for the driver, it is for the company! Waiting for dispatch, waiting for a customer to load or unload or prepare paperwork, waiting for customs or brokers or roadside inspections . . . it is all to do with the job, not for the driver! Unless the driver is eating, using the washroom or shower, or sleeping, if not at home, or another place of HIS choice, then he should be getting paid. The driver should start getting paid, by the hour, when he has been instructed to be at work.”
Desiree observed, “I think the hourly pay approach would bust the industry because they have been able to operate without accountability for the low wages and unpaid labor for so long. A salary without hidden fees and strings attached which are often used as a tool to make drivers disqualify themselves for receiving their pay would be a better solution. Hourly pay from a driver perspective would be great but impractical; a happy medium would be a guaranteed salary with carrier and driver requirements that are transparent.
I believe the industry will align with shippers to fight any pay increases to drivers so this will be a very long battle to raise awareness of just how bad it is. Whether the conclusion is hourly or salary, particular job duties should be compensated include pre-trip inspections, shipping/receiving wait times, counting freight on the dock, strapping/tarping, border crossing time, driving time. “
In my next blog, our three drivers will discuss the issues of recruiting, training and student drivers. To be continued . . .

Dan Goodwill

Dan Goodwill

Dan Goodwill, President, Dan Goodwill & Associates Inc. has over 30 years of experience in the logistics and transportation industries in both Canada and the United States. Dan has held executive level positions in the industry including President of Yellow Transportation’s Canada division, President of Clarke Logistics (Canada’s largest Intermodal Marketing Company), General Manager of the Railfast division of TNT and Vice President, Sales & Marketing, TNT Overland Express. Goodwill is currently a consultant to manufacturers and distributors, helping them improve their transportation processes and save millions of dollars in freight spend. Mr. Goodwill also provides consulting services to transportation and logistics organizations to help them improve their profitability.
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18 Comments » for Drivers Speak Out on the Driver Shortage Issue
  1. Paul Langman says:

    Once again I wonder if Stephen Large and I are twins separated at birth. PAY BY THE HOUR FOR EVERYTHING A DRIVER DOES FOR HIS EMPLOYER!! It would not eliminate driver turnover or logbook violations completely, but it would certainly reduce them so much that there would be barrels of money saved. There would be less need for speed governors and EOBR’s. When I come to work I bring 2 things, – my time and my abilities. If I am using them for the bosses work then I want to get paid. If it isn’t making him money then he needs to figure out what the problem is and fix it, not refuse to pay me. If the customer doesn’t want to pay for my time (and the bosses truck), then look for a new customer or a new employee.
    Desiree, I am sorry but I think a salary would be worse than mileage pay.

  2. meslippery says:

    minimum wage rate of the trucking companies region
    Well we are almost there.sometimes less this will solve
    the problem?

  3. Andre J says:

    Here’s a simple solution for shipper delays: legislate that it is the shippers responsibility to pay the driver his regular hourly wage from the moment he arrives on site(or as close as possible, if the shipper has entrance lineups or road parking) to the moment he leaves. They can pay the company, who will pay the driver. Put a reverse onus on the shipper – they must pay the time that the driver claims unless they can prove otherwise. We have the satellite records to establish our movements.
    For far too long, the trucking industry has provided cheap warehousing for indifferent shippers – let’s attach a cost to this inefficiency. I guarantee, once you start, shippers will magically find ways to become more efficient. Frankly I’m not sure why trucking associations haven’t lobbied for this before.

  4. meslippery says:

    What do the farmers say? Make hay when the sun shines?
    Well the EOBR says NO starve when it rains and Dont work when
    you can. At lest not enough to make up for the slow time.

  5. Stephen Large says:

    Andre J…you are correct with your guarantee that shippers will magically become more efficient if they have to pay for loading/unloading time! I charge by the hour from my yard until I get back to my yard and as soon as the customer knows this, they are quick to get things happening, or, in some cases, they just refuse to hire me….either way, they do not waste MY time!

  6. Dave says:

    Wow, this blog is a sweet sliver of sunshine through the clouds of the “driver shortage” cow manure.
    Ask companies that pay well, and treat their employees well if they have a “driver shortage” issue. Ask them if they suffer from driver turnover. Ask them why their drivers stick around for 10,20,30 years or more. Ask them if they have a hard time attracting great drivers with 10 or more years of experience. Now ask the companies that barely pay minimum wage, and treat drivers like sweat shop laborers if they’d like some cheese with that whine. I’m willing to wager their crocodile tears will be enough to help farmers through 5 drought seasons.
    For the record, I don’t think paying a driver a salary is a good idea. When paying salary, companies will try to cram anything and everything on the employee, and in turn salaried employees try to get away with doing as little as possible and still collect the same salary. Its bad for the employer, and its bad for the driver. There needs to be a formula of hourly, commission, and profit-sharing. Not to just pay a living wage, but also to motivate the drivers to make the company very profitable.
    And before I sign off, I also have to say drivers that trade their lives, and their family lives to live in a truck and work for free are just as big part of the problem as the companies that would love to exploit them. But this is a topic for another blog. Good job on this one Dan.

  7. Tony Godsoe says:

    Professional Truckers are just not recognized or respected for their skills and ability’s or hard work. We are one step above a Taxi driver which requires no skill. Every trucking company out there wants and needs good driver’s AT FIRST” but soon after the driver leaves the yard with a load he is just another body and a gopher. If driver’s had Good pay with benefits and a pension fund the whole industry would stop turning over. Try it and see. Yes there are times driver’s on the mileage are making way less than the minimum wage in all provinces. This needs to be corrected by the Companies.

  8. Kurt says:

    If there was a real driver shortage, we would see driver’s wages fluctuate as rapidly as fuel prices, with increases of 30-50%, not the meager increases that have not even kept up with the cost of living. When trucking companies remove the speed limiters in the States so that their trucks can do the legal speed limit and increase a driver’s daily productivity, then you will know there truly is a shortage of drivers. As it is now there are only lots of empty trucks at companies, with a lack of suckers to fill them. The training and leasing of equipment has become the profit center, not the hauling of freight.

  9. If you want an idea of how trucking companies see drivers, look at how drivers are treated vs their dispatch/office staff when it comes to washrooms.
    Drivers all too often get dirty washrooms, poorly looked after. If you check the facilities for the office workers, they’re clean, properly cleaned and provisioned.
    I too know a number of AZ licence holders who’ve chosen to leave the industry. Any so-called ‘driver shortage’ is a product of poor treatment of drivers by trucking companies.
    I personally have been ripped off, verbally abused, and asked to break HoS regulations by employers. No matter how much I enjoy driving when things are going well, every day it seems I find myself wondering about joining those who’ve left the industry – again.

  10. JD says:

    We have a small fleet and 10 drivers who truck all over Canada and the US, long haul, yet we have virtually no turnover. How can this be? Because we pay a good mileage rate, hourly for all non-driving tasks, full health benefits, company RRSP contributions and top equipment. How can we afford it? Better to ask how we could afford to be in the constant and costly state of training new drivers. The costs to PROPERLY train new drivers in my opinion are much greater that the costs to pay drivers properly, show them the respect that they are due and provide them with home time that is reasonable given their occupation. That being said, we find that when we do have to ask a driver to make a special effort or do something that may be considered out of the ordinary for them that we always get a “sure, no problem” answer. What is that worth?
    On EOBR’s, I see them as a useful tool if you are planning to pay your drivers solely by the hour.
    Again on driver retention, I believe that it is paramount to factor drivers into business decisions. I have been in this business for 32 years, most of them as a driver and owner operator and ask myself this question prior to making any operational decision, ” how would this decision sit with me as a driver?” The answer to that question is not necessarily THE deciding factor in operational decisions, but it is always carefully taken into consideration.
    I know that this is not a solution to the driver shortage by any means, just my 2 cents worth.

  11. Tony Godsoe says:

    Yes i agree with pay by the hour. I just recently just went back driving a truck and the main costs to owner /operators is fuel before the repairs even begin. Regulations are the next thing but some of those ridiculous ones are there for the driver’s and the safety of the public. Respect is earned not given. I still see a lot of driver’s and i hate to say this but clean yourself up and your trucks a shower and clean clothes and look respectable and talk decent to the shippers and the receiver’s and it will come back to you. Waiting time will always be there but if the companies were paying $20.00 to $30.00 an hour for a driver to wait it would make for a much better pay at the end of the week.

  12. Richard June says:

    Please have Mr. Stephen Large contact me, and I will gladly send him a resume.

  13. J J says:

    These big companies scream driver shortage “SIMPLE SOULUTION INCREASE PAY.”All these companies where quick to embrace The European Example of speed limiters,they should have also brought the European method of pay.’ALL DRIVERS PAID BY THE HOUR FOR EVERYTHNG THEY DO.The trucking industry is the only job that can drastily effect ones personal life GET A FEW DRIVING INFRACTIONS IT WILL EFFECT YOUR PERSONAL INSURANCE IN EXTREME CASES LOSE YOUR LICIENCE YOU CAN’T EVEN GET TO WORK.A doctor lawyeror pilot loses their licence to practice their trade at least they have the ability to seek another form of employment and drive themselves there.If we look a t wage scale in the mid seventies I received 21 cpm forty years later the high end of the scale is about 45 cpm real big increase about 24 cpm in thirty five years.There is no driver shortage just lack of pay for the hard working men and women of this once proud industry.

  14. Den O says:

    Personally,I think all the previous writers have some good ideas.Unfortunately,possible candidates for the truck driving industry don’t want to wait around for things to “get better”,so they just move on to other things that have a lot less hassle.Think about the those that punch a clock compared to those that have to “figure out” their pay every day or week or both.With all the rules and regulations out there,and our responsibilities while on the job,it’s a no-brainer that trucking is and has been a high tech job that deserves a pay and benefit package that should reflect the commitment and expertise expected from drivers.Having driven for forty years,I don’t pretend to know it all,but what I do know is people that might be willing to do this job,don’t want all the BS that comes with the job.They want it spelled out in black and white so they can see what they will get paid,what kind of benefits they will have and if and when they can retire and what kind of lifestyle they’ll be able to afford when they do!!!Those of you that have put in some years know this is a hard job that wears on you over time.Not only do we have to keep our “cool” on the road,we also need to bite our tongue at times with some customers.I agree some of the businesses we go to seem to go out of their way to hire idiots for shipping and receiving.The fact is they go home after their shift and don’t care a bit that you’ll be on the road possibly longer that you’d have to had they been able to load or unload you properly.Of course the same can be said for some dispatchers.Sometimes I think trucking companies put ads in the paper that state,”dispatcher wanted,someone with no-clue,no brains and no heart desirable and should apply”. To those dispatchers that do know what their doing and can get freight moved and keep their drivers happy should know who they are. As far as the independents go and the fact they can’t get the same discounts as their big company brethren,would it be possible to start an association that you could be a member of that could buy tires and parts in bulk at a discount.If, as an association,you could bargain at truck stops and repair shops for “deals” on oil changes and other maintenance issues,and maybe fuel,it’s possible those steps could drive down your costs so you could keep more of your hard earned money and be able to afford the “necessities”for your families!!!

  15. Big John says:

    Pay for the employees time is the way to make the pay predictable for existing drivers and to show potential drivers what they can expect. I went into the business as a starry eyed rookie and went to work for a training company. 3 total weeks of training at well below minimum wage for the hours worked and then put on the road with driving skills but not enough of a working knowledge of how to work their “system”. I spent way too much free time waiting on dispatch for the location of empty trailer, loaded trailers, and fuel stops. My last trip before I turned in my keys was a 300 mile run that took a day and a half due entirely to waiting on the company to find trailers for me. At .26 cpm it became apparent that I would not be able to survive a year as a rookie with income like that. I’m selling motorcycles now and at minimum wage plus commission I’m making a better living and am able to be home.

  16. JH says:

    To Big John:
    I do not know where you live but in BC the min wage is $10.25 per hour.
    At 26 cpm you could figure out that with stops, etc, you would average about 40 miles per hour or less.
    If you drive 39.42 miles per hour you would be working for min wage, and this after all the money you spent going to truck driving school.
    So here is the math: (1) Truck driver + (2) Min Wage = Artificial Truck Driver Shortage.

  17. larry shaw says:

    well i got my class 1 in 1974 so its been a mile or 2 the main problem is money for labor. Ya see nobody mindes workin if it pays lots. I use to make lots of doe but not no more i evan stood up at a teamsters meeting and said when my kids were growing up i took hoilidays at chistmas/ spring break / summer/ mimimum 2 weeks each these drivers will never be able to do that cause the minite use rase your rate some rat bag willing to work for nutin will be in thier like a dirty shirt. Thanks to our wonderfull govt for messin every thing up they allowed the importation of 3rd world drivers to drive the truck if you cant find cheap enough guys here; then they let oil co set fuel price, tires and every thing else great for thier tax base. just so they can wath us suffer more and more. I was ower op for 28 yrs .Starting soon im going to drive co iron a trust me i would rather shovel s-it luvlarry

  18. Kim Vincent says:

    I wish drivers across North America would unite together and shut down their trucks for a few days, refuse to deliver anything to anyone and see how the world would and should have appreciated drivers and how they are so sorely needed..Trucking companies pay their workers like peanuts wage needs to be changed.. Try sitting in California loading docks for 18 hours or more without getting paid for it.. Drivers need to be paid for all waiting times and all time on duty. The driver shortage will get only worst in the next few years.. Companies push drivers to frustration and exhaustion only to pay so very little for what the driver has to put up with. If DOT wants to regulate the industry safety they should first regulate the companies and how they treat the drivers and how they are paid. Time for a change and it should be in favor of the driver for once.

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