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.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies