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, 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. All posts by Dan Goodwill