Re: "poll shows most drivers flout HOS rules," NewsWorthy (February 2007)
Our entire industry needs to wake up and get our heads out of the sand. The purported driver shortage, driver pay, working conditions, and highway safety are all interconnected. To solve one of these problems it's necessary to address and resolve them all.
To begin with, the question the industry should be asking itself is not why there aren't enough drivers. There are an estimated 11 million CDL holders in the country today—more than enough to fill the estimated 20,000 driver jobs currently unfilled. The question it should be asking is: "Why are Americans who are qualified to drive commercial vehicles not willing to fill these positions?"
The problem lies in how truckers are treated and how they are paid. According to a July 2003 study by the Department of Labor Statistics, the average annual pay for a truck driver was $32,134, and for all workers, $37,784. The $5,650 difference could be one reason for the industry-wide turnover rate of well over 100 percent. If the earnings issue isn't addressed, the exodus of drivers will continue, and as the American Trucking Associations has predicted, the industry will be 110,000 short in just a few years.
We can solve this mass departure of drivers, while improving highway safety and security in one fell swoop. The solution: provide an economic environment where an individual driving a truck (whether a company driver, a lease/operator, or an owner/operator) can earn the revenue commensurate with the skills required. This pay scale must take into account the dangers of the job, the necessary time, and a return on investment for the equipment. It must also allow a trucker to make a safety-related decision without jeopardizing his income.
Keep in mind, every time a trucker is held at a dock waiting to be unloaded, he's not being paid. Just put yourself in this trucker's shoes. How would you respond if the only way you could make up for the lost income was to manipulate your logbook so you could keep rolling and rack up the needed miles?
Therefore, unless you have Scotty in the transporter room at your warehouse ready to beam your goods, you need to get going to help resolve these problems. Your side of the industry needs to take steps to ensure that drivers don't have to wait for hours to unload. If a trucker is out of hours by the time he gets to your dock or when he has completed the unloading process, you need to provide him with a secure and safe place to park that doesn't create a Catch-22 choice—break the HOS rules or be charged with trespassing.
You're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem. Just remember, if you push a trucker to do something unsafe in order to meet your schedule or make him drive somewhere else because you don't want his truck clogging your property's streets, you have taken responsibility for any accident that occurs because the driver was too fatigued to operate a truck safely. You wouldn't let a friend drive drunk; you shouldn't create a situation where a trucker is driving tired!
– Timothy D. Brady
The writer is a 20-plus year trucking veteran and is the Trucker's Business Advisor on Sirius Road Dog Trucker's Radio's "Open Road Café." He is on the board of directors for the Truck Writers of North America and teaches trucking business workshops.