Trucking wants more drivers. It doesn’t need them.

David Henry

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!

(Photo: iStock)

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.

David Henry

David Henry is a longhaul driver, Bell Let's Talk representative and creator/cohost of the Crazy Canuck Truckin podcast. His passion is mental health and presenting a better image for trucking to the public.

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  • Great article David, bigger isn’t always better. We all want more but we all want to “Walmart” prices for everything. That’s a disconnect that is not easily resolved. Wanting to improve and grow is part of the human condition but doing so in a way that is healthy for all is not easy. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Trucking Companies always insist to need more drivers. But They need only cheaper drivers. No one wants to make $3000 net income staying away from family. Don’t believe “Urgent” on Kijiji. If you click it, you may know that they want to only hire experienced drivers having a couple of years driving record. Driver shortage is not a real story.

  • I see too many former truck drivers in homeless shelters. Many trucking companies do not even pay for the return cost of the truck driver to Ontario if sick or expired. All trucking companies should be limited to bringing in 2 mechanics or other personal in any 12 month period. Construction companies and certain farms should also get permits for up to 2 truck drivers for a max of 8 months driving from April to Dec. Truck driver wages are 25 to 30 below what is a fair wage . Truck drivers doing local work should make at $18.00 U S or $23.00 cd once they have 5000 hours experience. O T R truck drivers with 5000 hours experience should make at least $21.00 U S per hour or $27.10 per hour plus overtime after 9 hours driving or 10 hours on duty. Also should make double time after 13 hours on duty per day.

  • I’m afraid you may be more than right. While complaining about driver shortages, I have noticed that wages don’t seem to be going up in any great rush in an effort to retain the current work force. And while we are at it, there are still far too many companies without a benefit package. The insurance industry has some reasonably priced packages that could be a factor in a driver moving on or staying put.
    Just my opinion,

  • Great article David!
    I have an unrelated question… I am sick of looking on line for current regulations and finding only info that is terribly outdated.
    Can someone please tell me approximately when the change occurred to the Canadian Federal HOS regulation that stated:
    Drivers max of 14 hours on duty can extend shift to 16 hours ONLY if driver has a sleeper and takes 2 hours off duty, in minimum 30 minute increments during a shift.

  • I am retired but have held a class one all my driving life. I was a commercial driver for 7 years starting in the mid 70’s. So now I am offering my services ( because there is a driver shortage and I am qualified and experienced) but on my terms. I can help when it suits me and benefit them at the same time. I am not working because they don’t want to work w me on my terms. They are the boss and they will tell me when to work. All I wanted was to help them out when I could. I dont need full time work or any work for that matter. So how bad is the driver shortage, I too would say it is a myth.

  • We have talked about the so-called “driver shortage” ad nauseam on Trucker Radio for years. So, I thought it was interesting…no, make that funny, that two opposing views appeared on the same page.

    I tend to go with David’s view of things as they are…the reality. Okay, I’m not a driver. Never was. I don’t believe that Angela Splinter was either. I do know that David Henry is. He’s closer to the action. With all due respect to Ms Splinter’s views and research, I, as a relative outsider see the the trucking industry leaders, including the CTA, as intransigent and unwilling to or maybe fearful of reaching outside their own industry to promote it in a positive non-stereotypical light. Oh wait! I wore out that sermon a long time ago. The choir left. They’re listening to a different preacher.
    Bless you Dave.