by Ric Farrah of Mt. Juliet, TN
I would like to submit that the so-called shortage is a manufactured crisis by ATA members to relax rules for hiring less expensive foreign or even worse, younger, under 21-year-old drivers. The ATA would have us believe the trucking industry, despite being deregulated, does not react customarily to supply and demand fluctuations. If there truly was a driver shortage, theoretically freight would not be loaded. In the real world where demand is greater than supply, the price of the product or service will rise. This fundamental economic fact is either not the case in the trucking industry or all freight is being moved and the driver shortage is a myth. In truth, freight rates remain stagnant only increasing by minimal fuel surcharges that typically meet only a small percentage of the actual increase in fuel costs. Stagnant freight rates are evidence that freight is being moved and shippers are still able to play one trucking company against another to procure a service at a competitive price. I would suggest that trucking company execs are experiencing more of a driver retention problem than a driver shortage problem. Moves by the industry to provide better pay and ergonomic changes are positive changes and should help recruiters land more drivers. Time away from home also needs to be addressed. No one should expect drivers with families to be away from home 21 days or more without continually looking for a better job. Companies that adopt this practice in their business model will always complain of a “driver shortage.” A wake-up call for every independent and company driver should be the ATA’s support of NAFTA by allowing freight originating in Mexico to be delivered to all points of the United States by Mexican carriers.
Under NAFTA, American carriers could effectively cut labor, equipment, and driver amenity costs by hiring Mexican drivers to haul Mexican originated freight as well as American freight destined to Mexico. In 1995, the weekly wage for a Mexican laborer working the maquiladoras was under $60. If the contrived driver shortage still exists in America, Mexican drivers now employed by American carriers could easily apply and receive an American work visa to fill American trucks operating in America ostensibly at a much-reduced rate.
Hopefully American drivers will wake up and voice opposition to this latest attack on their careers and livelihood. Registering to vote would be a great start. There are over four million drivers in this country and probably less than 20 percent are registered to vote. Representatives in DC will not acknowledge non-registered voters. Secondly, join OOIDA. Owner-operators and company drivers benefit with a strong lobbying organization of their own. Finally, career drivers need to personally get involved with their career.
Editor’s note: Good comments, good thoughts. Among OOIDA members, more than 80 percent are registered and regular voters.