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Let’s Talk About the Driver Shortage: How to Make Life Worth Working For Long Haul Truck Drivers

Those of us inside the Industry knew it was just a matter of time: a driver shortage was coming. Estimates are pointing to Canada having a whopping 48,000 driver shortage by 2024.

We’ve been here before. In 2008, slow economic growth hit the industry hard causing a freight market recession. For the five years that followed, the industry felt the pressure from shippers armed with volume in order to aggressively reduce their transportation cost.

Since then, a moderate rate increase was somewhat realized, but nowhere near the increase cost of equipment, maintenance, office staff and certified mechanic costs. In other industries, we’ve seen Canadians strongly focused on work/life balance, but the same can’t be said for trucking and owner-operators.

Drivers are on the road up to 70 hours a week plus an added 3 hours per day dedicated to loading and unloading. You could be spending seven days or more away from home. To make matters worse no one wants to pay for their valuable time loading/unloading, clearing customs and simply waiting for backhaul instructions in some vacant parking lot. Do you know another industry where you’re not paid to work?

The driver shortage is being hit hard by men and women leaving the driving force due to lack of compensation, age, and illness. In fact, a 2016 Transportation Spotlight report said that 21 percent are leaving due to health issues.

Over the last 12-15 years, a new breed of owner-operators entered the driver force. These were hard working men and women that thought they could make a living at it if they worked hard and put on extra miles to compensate for the numeration short fall. They soon realized maybe not? Stuck with truck payments and financial obligation, they were backed into a corner hoping for a positive change. That change never came.

Most of these owner-operators have hung onto their aging trucks, with no intention of replacing these vehicles, unless of course some positive rate outcome had been achieved. These men and women are now getting out; understandably they cannot see paying $200k for a truck that not too long ago went for $135k.

We have watched all summer long as these men and women left the industry to haul gravel. A job that will take them home every night for the same money. Some took jobs in construction, some took to working as local company drivers or working the docks – all for the same money and home every night. Not at some truck stop or vacant parking lot. They are finally achieving some quality of life with less stress and much healthier food and lifestyle.

And the industry is in shock… Really!?

Only now are shippers asking for a solution, well the solution is simple: MONEY!

Over the past few years many drivers, owner-operators and even carriers have been trying to squeeze in an extra 1,000 miles+ a month to make up for the shortfall, which as we all know is “illegal.”

Now a US mandate for electronic logs, which will begin on December 17, 2017, has everyone running for the hills. Owner-operators are leaving and this is only the start. Sadly, we’ll see the departure of 10’s of thousands more by the deadline.

In my opinion, the industry has done a horrible job shedding light on the real issue. They paint a picture of financial stability and decent pay equity, which isn’t the case most of the time.  

To prove my point, ask yourself: Would you leave your family and the comfort of home to work up to 88 hours a week including both driving and loading/unloading? Or would you be okay with being away from your family 23-25 days a month for an average of $57k a year? How about paying $10k for a course designed to get you a license to achieve this lifestyle and its financial outcome? I didn’t think so.

In order to maintain our current fleets, we need to compensate immediately. To attract new hires, the package needs to be attractive and include more than just driving time. They need to include hours loading/unloading in the compensation as well.  

How much will it take to keep and attract the highway driver? What will keep you in the industry? I want to hear your thoughts and opinions on the subject because the only way we’re going to progress is by bringing a voice to this topic. Head over to our Facebook or Twitter page and leave your opinion now.    



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