Breaking Down Barriers to the Truck Driver Shortage


The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) states that the United States is headed for a truck driver shortage of 200,000 to 400,000 drivers within the next couple of years.Yet as of August 31, 2006, the Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) had 12.9 million CDL driver records, growing at an average rate of nearly 40,000 new CDL licenses per month.Out of these, an estimated 50% are just CDL holders, not using their license within a truck driving employment position.

Although this is a fabricated “crisis”, the headline continues to gain attention by major news outlets. There has never been a truck driver shortage in the United States and to fully understand the reasons for this so-called crisis, one must look at several aspects relating to the truck transportation industry.

The fear mongering used by the trucking industry to induce news coverage of a truck driver shortage is a tactic that has been used for decades. The most recent term, “qualified driver shortage,” has come about due to the implementation of the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability Program (CSA). Because of this program, one could reason that there is a shortage of qualified truck drivers, but only because of further regulations being implemented upon the industry.

Motor carriers are now looking for the “perfect” CDL driver who has zero blemishes on their CSA/PSP scores since the CSA program now holds both driver and carrier responsible and liable for safety issues. In the past, only the driver was held responsible for safety violations, even if the violation was the direct fault of the carrier such as a problem with the truck or trailer where the carrier procrastinated in having the problem repaired.

Because of so many new regulations hitting the industry, along with the political maneuvering between the industry and safety groups, many drivers are leaving the vocation and new would-be drivers are avoiding it for several reasons.

With an impending 200,000 to 400,000 shortage of CDL drivers, why are so many recession-worn, out of work employees failing to enter a career in professional truck driving? As drivers face stricter governmental safety regulations and a higher demand by carriers for professionalism, the wages for the CDL driver remains low. Truck driver wages have virtually remained the same for at least thirty years. An ad for hiring drivers in 1978 showed a starting pay rate of.36 cents per mile which is still close to the average pay today, in 2012, thirty-four years later.

Along with the stagnate truck driver wages and the CSA, they also face other possible mandates such as: EOBR’s, sleep apnea testing, BMI maximum, little or no detention time pay, anti-idling laws, higher fuel prices, attitude from law enforcement and the general public, lack of APU’s for safety comfort, stricter hours of service rules, forced dispatch, retaliation from the carrier via the DAC report, the starving 代駕司機 out process, lack of adequate home time and 70 hour work weeks.

Due to a constant influx of regulations, many are seeing professional truck driving not being worth the effort. Perhaps the major cause for this is the fact that truck drivers are considered as “unskilled labor” by the U.S. Department of State and the Wage and Hour Division.

Classifying working adults as “unskilled labor” has to do with global economics, as currently 70% of American workers fall within this classification. By classifying workers as “unskilled,” pay wages are kept at minimum which obviously is a big plus for the truck transportation industry that is the largest sector of private industry in North America.

Professional truck drivers are expected to work 70 hours per week and try to run as many miles as possible at a cents-per-mile basis. The standard mileage per week is established at 2500 miles, which for many drivers are still not yet attainable. A new driver to the industry can drive 2500 miles per week at.27 cents per mile and gross a weekly pay check of $675.00 for a so-called 70 hours of work. This figures to be $9.64 per hour gross pay. A veteran driver at 2500 miles per week at a rate of.36 cents per mile, 70 hour work week will gross $900 for the week, averaging $12.86 per hour gross.

Should the motor carrier begin the “starving out” process against the driver and only give them 1800 miles for the week as an example, the gross weekly hourly rate falls to $6.94 per hour and $9.26 per hour respectively. Add to the equation the living out on the road for weeks, months at a time, sleeping in adverse weather conditions without an APU, cost of meals out, isolation from friends and family, contending with strict DOT regulations and risk of CSA violations… a new driver would have to wonder why they would go through all of this for what often times, will lead to an hourly pay scale that is below the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Furthermore, why would a veteran truck driver adhere to such a lifestyle at such a low pay scale?

The motor carrier operating their own CDL training programs, largely the ones I call the “starter companies,” receive government subsidies for training new hires. These subsidies can range from several thousand dollars to as high as $50,000 to $222,000 such as the Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Training Grants, for example. My last research showed there to be about 16 such programs offered to these CDL training facilities.

The training school motor carrier can actually make more money by constantly turning over drivers than working to retain them. Newer drivers hired at a much lower cents-per-mile rate can be used as a form of cheap labor, while starving out the more experienced driver who commands a higher pay scale while the constant CDL training program continues to bring in the governmental subsidies.

Recent CDL truck driving school graduates are expected to come out being safe and productive professional drivers and they expect to stay within the industry, yet currently there is a 200% turnover rate among first year CDL graduates. Often within their first year of professional truck driving, they end up disillusioned, financially broke and even sometimes, destitute.

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