A persistent shortage of truck drivers that fleet owners have complained about for decades may actually be a function of tough working conditions and high turnover rates, speakers said in a session today at the CSCMP Edge trade show in Nashville, the annual industry conference for the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.
Estimates vary on the shortfall of employees needed to haul freight over America’s highways, but employers have complained about that challenge for at least a century, judging by a newspaper clipping from 1914 displayed in a session titled “Drive shortage: the great debate and research too.”
Different points of view include the American Trucking Associations’ estimate of an 80,000-person deficit, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ position that labor markets can provide plenty of drivers if employers improve pay and working conditions, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA)’s message that applicants are plentiful but retention is poor, according to moderator Steve Raetz, director of Market Research & Intelligence for C.H. Robinson.
Panelists agreed that more drivers could be drawn to the profession if companies improved drivers’ work/life balance issues and helped them avoid frustrations like hours-long delays at loading and unloading stations.
That conclusion echoed commentary from a second panel, which pointed out that the alleged driver shortage would be more accurately described as an efficiency problem across the industry. Those problems range from tractors pulling half-empty trailers to extensive waiting time for loading pallets, poor routing, and long waits to unload freight, panelist Bart de Muynck from Project 44 said in a session titled “Putting Shippers in the Driver's Seat (Leveraging Fleet Sustainability Index with Google).”