OOIDA: The ‘Mythical’ Driver Shortage

As the largest trade association representing small-business truckers and professional truck drivers, our members reject the notion of a mythical driver shortage, especially claims of one at an “all-time high.”

So wrote Lewie Pugh, Executive Vice President of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) in a recent letter to Gina Raimondo, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary. Here’s more from the letter:

In reality, evidence from the federal government and industry analysis show that driver turnover is the problem [emphasis mine]. For one, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that over 400,000 new commercial driver’s licenses are issued every year. On top of that, the U.S. Department of Labor did not find indications of a driver shortage when examining the issue in 2019. Instead, they identified the high turnover experienced by large carriers as one reason for the perception of a shortage. Reporting from representatives of the nation’s largest truck fleets routinely report annual turnover rates above 90%. Clearly, there is no shortage of drivers entering the industry.

For decades, our country’s largest motor carriers and the trade associations that represent them have perpetuated the myth of a driver shortage to promote policies that maintain the cheapest labor supply possible.

As I wrote back in June, the details are different every time shippers face capacity constraints in trucking, but the headlines are always the same: We have a truck driver shortage problem.

Is there really a driver shortage? Is it more of a turnover issue? Maybe a bit of both?

I encourage you to read my December 2017 post titled “Truck Driver Shortage: Getting Better, Worse, Or No Problem At All?” for some of the data and ideas I presented at the time, which still apply today. Also check out these other posts related to the topic:

Members of our Indago supply chain research community shared their perspectives in a July 2019 survey. Here is what one executive commented at the time:

“We have seen driver shortage affect our carriers and private fleet. I believe that the younger generation will not be willing to drive over the road, and that shippers will be forced to distribute their products at a regional/local level to get customers their product. I believe that driver wages and benefits will escalate over the next few years. To mitigate this challenge, shippers will have to have good relationships with carriers, increase private fleets, and be creative on how their distribution networks execute delivery to achieve customer service levels.”

What do you think? Is the truck driver shortage problem getting better, worse, or it’s not a problem at all? What can the trucking industry do to attract, hire, and retain more drivers? Do you agree with our Indago members? Post a comment and share your perspective!

All I know is that I’ve been in the industry for 22 years and there’s been talk of a driver shortage for all that time. I’m willing to bet we’ll be talking about it for the next 22 years too — unless driverless trucks become an operational reality.

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