I have a money shortage. I want more of it. I know others in this situation, so we’re going to band together to petition the government for more money. We’ll use conservative numbers and say we want 25% more money than we’re making now.
I can’t go to my boss about this, because he’ll just laugh me out of the office and tell me I’m crazy. He thinks I already make enough money.
I can pay my bills, but it is not enough – I want more. I know that sounds callous, because there are many in trouble right now with everything that has been going on. I think they’re saying we’re in a pandemic or something?
I hope you’re seeing how silly this is. But wait…is it so silly?
We have similar conversations going on right now about the perceived driver shortage. We don’t have a driver shortage. Say it with me again: We don’t have a driver shortage!
How do I know this? Shelves are not bare. When I empty my trailer, there aren’t many loads to choose from. There may be some lanes that are not serviced well, but that’s usually because of low pay or lousy return freight options, which causes the low rate of pay in the first place. Notice I didn’t say ‘backhaul’? Yeah, strike that term from your vocabulary. Please.
Why is there talk about a driver shortage? It’s simple. We have driver shortage discussions because companies want more drivers. Company A wants 50 trucks on the road but in reality, they only have steady work for 40. Remember, I want more money, but it’s not feasible for my boss to pay more.
It has become ingrained in us that we should get what we want. Companies want to become bigger so they aggressively drive down rates to get more work. Then they want more drivers to fill those seats.
Companies used to be family owned. Employees used to be like family to the owners. Now, companies are run to maximize shareholder profits. Fleets think they make more money by getting bigger and crushing the competition. They prefer drivers and other employees who don’t stand up for their rights.
They want drivers who operate like neatly packaged little robots who blindly go where they’re told. They want the government to step in and help them attract more temporary foreign workers along with more subsidies.
Are some of you offended now?
I remember spending days waiting after unloading in each major city in Canada. Days. Even if we attracted thousands of new longhaul drivers to Canada, we would be back to waiting for days or a week for a load out. Driver turnover would surge. The revolving door in your HR recruitment office would be spinning off its hinges.
Trucking HR Canada did a survey on the mental health of trucking company employees. CEO Angela Splinter writes that the results are “alarming.” She’s right. It is alarming. Most drivers I meet are struggling. The issues regarding access to facilities isn’t going away, companies rarely stand up to shippers and receivers that treat drivers worse than animals, and the stress of knowing you could inadvertently infect your family with the virus is a formidable mountain to climb.
Here’s my advice: Focus on what you have. Make sure your employees are taken care of. If your employees feel respected and are paid well, they won’t leave. They’ll even bring others to your company. And just like that: No driver shortage.
Just because you may want to be 500, 2,000, or 3,000 trucks strong, don’t chase that extra 10-20% of freight. As a driver, it isn’t pleasant to work for cut-rate brokers or shippers. Keeping your drivers on good freight helps boost morale.
When I started in this industry you needed to be 25 years old and have five years of experience. It was tough to get in. It was a goal for many people to make it. When we got in, we respected what we had because it wasn’t easy to get there.
You want more young people? Start promoting trucking in a positive light. Show them the technology in trucks and how it’s not just a steering wheel and gears anymore. If you have a driver council, or solicit employee input, act on the feedback.
Respect goes both ways. You show respect to your drivers, you’ll most likely get respect in return.
It’s not to late to control the future in trucking. I believe that as an industry we’ll keep finding ways to improve. Focus on the needs. Scrap the wants.
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