Why the driver shortage is your friend

I spent Friday at the Ontario Trucking Association’s annual convention, where the topic of an impending driver shortage was once again on everyone’s mind. This time, however, it seems trucking company executives are taking a different approach to the issue. While in the past, trucking execs following the mantra “He who has the drivers wins,” conducted hiring blitzes with attractive signing bonuses and as many perks as they could load into the truck cab and added capacity at the behest of shippers without a second thought. This time, if they’re to be believed, trucking company execs will be much more restrained when it comes to adding capacity.
Rick Gaetz, CEO of Vitran Corp., got an applause when he made the following point: “In 2005, instead of worrying about where we were taking our companies, we became consumed with where we were going to get new drivers. We became consumed with increasing our driver pools, which has one simple effect; it drives down price – end of story. The driver shortage is going to be much worse going forward. As crass as this may sound, the driver shortage is your friend to get your company back to the point where it earns enough return to reinvest appropriately in your business and pay drivers what they deserve.”
Gaetz later re-emphasized: “The driver shortage may be the biggest friend that you’ve had in your career and we have to find a way to deal with it, not to exploit it or take advantage of it.”
Jeff Bryan of Jeff Bryan Transport agreed: “This driver shortage is going to present an excellent opportunity for us to grow our business organically with great customers and good rates.”
So there you have it. Trucking industry leaders are saying all the right things. They say they will respond to the driver shortage differently this time around, and use it to their advantage to get a fair rate and to pay drivers what they’re worth. It’s a noble thought and if industry leaders have the resolve to carry through, everyone will be far better off.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • I suspect that some truckers will exercise constraint and initially add capacity slowly as the freight market heats up. However, as rates begin to climb, driver wages will escalate as less committed truckers bid for driver labor. Everyone will eventually have to jump into the wage war if they want to keep their drivers from leaving.

  • James, there is NO driver shortage and I highly doubt there ever will be. It is a myth perputrated by the major fleets to convince the Federal and Provincial Governments to open the flood gates so that they can import CHEAP scab labour! What there is James is a continual and ever growing driver turnover which these fleets perceive as a driver shortage. They have a retention problem not a driver shortage. What there is a shortage of GOOD paying, driver respecting jobs. People seem to think that 70 grand is a huge pile of money to pay someone whom you entrust with a mimimum of 100 grand in corporate assets, your customers’ freight and your corporate reputation and image and then expect them to be gone from their families all week! Try offering 30 grand MORE in pay and see the choice applicants you have to sort through! Try treating your drivers with the respect they deserve. If they don’t deserve respect then why keep them on the payroll? Treat them as an asset.
    James, until good paying freight begins to stack up on the docks of North America no one will ever convince me there is a driver shortage…NEVER!

  • Even if an actual driver shortage does exist….and it well may exist with Boomers retiring and CSA booting some out and a plethora of wannabes coming and going….I’m not going to hold my breathe until the day we drivers are paid what we’re worth. I’m not naive enough to believe that noble words and thoughts often turn into action. In my experience, noble words from leaders far outweigh noble actions by leaders.