There has been a seemingly endless array of discussions over the past decade about a driver shortage. This is fact, and whether you agree there has been a shortage or not, the many doom and gloom statements coming from every direction continue to roar on. As many know, I for one can argue both side of this issue, but I lean towards there not being a shortage of drivers (qualified drivers, that’s a different story), but I digress. As an aside I thought I would do my own quick SWOT test on the issue, and here is what I see:
Let us look at the reasons why one might want to enter this industry. I will try and be impartial but this will be somewhat slanted to my own experience, my apologies up front. The solitude for me was an attraction; don’t get me wrong I enjoy interaction with friends and relatives for the most part but I am also a person who is quite content to be left on my own for extended periods of time, I’m quite fine in my own space. This industry will allow you to see almost any part of North America if your interested in seeing new spaces, and places, as I was when I was entering the industry – this is certainly a plus. If you happen to be entrepreneurial, as I am, then the trucking industry is definitely for you. Further, if you like independence (I know that many will argue that technology has taken much of this away but I still see it as a plus), the person behind the wheel still has to make a thousand decisions on there own each day the are on the job.
There is likely a variety of issues at play here, not the least of which would be that it takes guts. You have to have a certain level of self-confidence, and courage, to think that you can handle a truck and a fifty-three foot trailer in and around the type of traffic and congestion that is prevalent today. Think about it, it’s not for everybody. Now add to this the elements that come with the job, to some degree an uncertain income level certainly fluctuating income. Lets not kid each other, it’s okay to good at best, it is not excellent, not by a long shot. Very few drivers could divide their pay checks by the total number of hours spent on every element of their work week and say that it is outstanding for what they do. Depending on circumstances, an uncertain workweek, and irregular lifestyle, and you have to enjoy being on your own – a lot. You would also be entering an industry that tends to eat it’s young with excessively high turnover rates. As of the writing of this article no implemented minimum training standards or finishing standards for the entry level folks. Your family life will likely be strained to say the least, and the reduced lifespan of a professional driver all adds up to a less than a rosy picture,
There are any number of initiatives that could be enacted to create a landslide of new entry-level drivers to the industry if the industry has the courage to go after them. First would be to stop eating each other’s dinner when it comes to rates. Drivers need to make more money. Why do drivers, who happen to work for private fleets, make substantially more money than those from the for-hire industry. Think about it, because carriers bid each other down to the bare bones to get the business, if I were a shipper, knowing this, I’d let um go at it too. We need a GOOD solid entry-level minimum training standard, and a good mandatory finishing standard adopted nation-wide that the industry would be forced to comply with. If I had my way violation of the minimum standard put lives at risk and there would be mandatory jail time for violators. Think back to the wheel offs we had twenty years ago, government said mandatory 50K fine per future infraction, industry responded with mandatory certification of all wheel installers. But a school blatantly cuts corners on training and for the most part they got a slide, a slap on the wrist. Does anyone research where the individuals were trained after there is a preventable accident? NO, makes my blood boil!
Biggest threat for me in attracting new drivers and keeping what we have now is our own complacency; Ontario is being watched by the rest of North America because of the work being done on a new entry-level driver training rule. I’m sure this group is watching our industry brothers south of the border as they craft a federal rule. It took a long time to get here; private agendas, and short cuts have prevailed again with the elimination of the mandated 30 hours behind the wheel. To me this is the single biggest threat out there right now, the threat of private interest who may dictate a weak rule for their own financial gain. Scares the crap out of me that we will get a watered-down version of training designed to put pupils in classes and in seats, rather than the top quality entry-level drivers we need, and this industry deserves.
Canada and the US are all at critical stages in the industry’s maturity, we will either move the bar up, as is my hope, or we will legislate another round of minutia that will not change a thing – I’m flipping a coin right now! So there you have it my SWOT test. In conclusion, more money in the driver’s pockets, better training and finishing programs and we’ll be halfway there. Space limits many other observations and this is a good start. Please let me know your thoughts.