The Biden administration should reject the notion that there is a shortage of truck drivers and instead focus on why carriers find it difficult to keep drivers in their ranks, according to the largest small-business trucking lobby.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association pressed the department’s Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness (ACSCC) to resolve the underlying causes of excessive driver turnover – also known as “churn”. “Otherwise, we anticipate turnover rates will remain precariously high or even increase no matter how many new drivers are eligible to enter the industry,” wrote OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh.
Pugh was responding to a recent recommendation by the ACSCC — a nongovernmental advisory panel in the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration — that the department lead a government effort to address a truck driver shortfall by expanding demographic pools, such as women and minorities, and increasing driver training and apprenticeship programs.
However, large motor carriers and their representatives have for decades “perpetuated the myth of a driver shortage to promote policies that maintain the cheapest labor supply possible,” Pugh asserted. “In reality, evidence from the federal government and industry analysis shows that driver turnover is the problem.”
To support his assertion, Pugh pointed to estimates from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that over 400,000 new commercial driver’s licenses are issued each year. He also noted that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) had not found evidence of a driver shortage when it studied the problem in 2019.
“Instead, [DOL] identified the high turnover experienced by large carriers as one reason for the perception of a shortage,” Pugh stated. “Reporting from representatives of the nation’s largest truck fleets routinely [shows] annual turnover rates above 90%. Clearly, there is no shortage of drivers entering the industry.”
To address driver retention, Pugh wrote that federal regulators should focus on increasing truck parking capacity — which was also recommended by ACSCC — as well as finding ways to boost compensation and overtime pay, improving driver training programs, and eliminating excessive detention time.
“For instance, a majority of OOIDA members who operate under the 60 hour/7-day rule and those who operate under the 70 hour/8-day rule spend between 11 and 20 hours each week waiting to load or unload their truck. Additionally, drivers are allocating more and more of their on-duty time searching for safe parking locations due to capacity shortfalls in every region of the country.
“Addressing these inefficiencies will repair supply chain vulnerabilities in a far more sustainable manner than simply allowing more drivers to enter the industry.”