Drivers and owner/operators have always been the trucking industry’s main asset, above and beyond equipment, technology and even management.
Most trucking companies already know this.
Now shippers are finally being forced to come to terms with the importance of the person behind the wheel as well.
The August announcement by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency that only FAST card carrying drivers and owner/operators will be allowed to cross the border carrying certain loads (BRASS and CAFE) exempt from the November deadline for electronic prenotification just drove the point home.
Suddenly shippers are being required to check with their carriers to make sure the BRASS and CAFE loads being carried over the border are being carried by the right kind of driver – namely the driver who has a FAST card in his or her possession.
This will no doubt create something of a shortage within the already existing driver shortage plaguing the industry – many drivers both in Canada and the U.S. have yet to receive their FAST cards, this even though many of them have applied.
Suddenly, FAST-card carrying drivers are going to be as sought after, if not quite as glamorous, as William Shatner at a sci-fi convention.
Enjoy it while you can guys and gals. Your extra hard work getting out the paperwork and then getting to a FAST enrolment centre on your day off or between loads or whenever you managed to do it might just pay off.
The Freight Carriers Association of Canada certainly knows this. In a recent press release the FCA advised carriers to increase their rates by 5.8 per cent. Excess capacity was listed as one of the reasons for the rate increase. But the need for drivers was the recognized cause, according to the FCA; increased demands on drivers and the driver shortage are pushing labour costs up. The industry is competing for drivers from a limited pool of experienced professionals, says the FCA. And trucking companies are continuing to invest in increased wages, recruitment and training in order to meet the demand for drivers.
Major carriers like Bison have spent more than $50,000 in the last 12 months getting their drivers up to speed on the new hours of service rules (which were subsequently rejected by the U.S. court of appeals) and will have to spend a whole lot more to retrain them if the rules change again. And major carrier conglomerates, like Transforce, which purchased Highland Transport in August, will be no better off, in the words of their competitor “unless they can buy trucks with drivers already in the seat.”
Indeed, the driver, according to most industry sources, has become as desirable as Pamela Anderson in a bikini on a ship full of Marines. So who’s buying the Mai Tais?