So many open jobs for truck drivers! It’s another bogus skills shortage story.

Summary: Today we learn about all those open jobs for truck drivers, waiting for lazy Americans (or more immigrants) to fill them. It is another bogus “skills shortage” story, revealing much about how America is changing.

The road to larger trucking industry profits.

Trucking Industry Profits

The plutocrat revolution against America has many fronts. One of the most important is their ongoing program to hammer down wages and boost profits. One aspect of that is their propaganda campaign to convince the public that there is a labor shortage. Today’s example: “Truck Driver Shortage Analysis 2015” by Bob Costello and Rod Suarez (Chief Economist, Economic Analyst), American Trucking Associations — Opening…

“Over the past 15 years, the trucking industry has periodically struggled with a shortage of truck drivers. The first shortage during this period was documented in a 2005 report. At that time, the shortage was roughly 20,000. During the last recession starting in 2008, the driver shortage was eliminated as industry volumes plummeted, resulting in fewer drivers needed. However, as industry volumes began to recover in 2011, the shortage slowly returned. The driver market continued to tighten and the shortage skyrocketed to 38,000 by 2014.

“There are many reasons for the current driver shortage, but one of the largest factors is the relatively high average age of the existing workforce. The current average driver age in the OTR (Over-the-Road) TL (Truckload) industry is 49.

“…If the current trend holds, the shortage may balloon to almost 175,000 by 2024.

The ATA lists five causes of the “shortage”: aging workforce, gender (too few women drivers), drivers have a difficult lifestyle, better jobs available, and too many regulations. The ATA has recommendations, which include government action to boost truckers’ profits. Given the high accident rate of 18-20 year-old young adults, this is quite mad. But profits matter more than lives to our owners.

“Lower Driving Age: Interstate driving currently has an age minimum of 21. The 18-20 year old segment has the highest rate of unemployment of any age group, yet this is an entire segment that the industry cannot access (with the exception of local routes, which is generally reserved for seniority). Additionally, potential drivers are likely to have found another career path (that they are already 3 years into) by the time they reach 21.”

The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream
“The Big Rig” is available at Amazon.

A more logical theory

Oddly the ATA does not mention the most logical theory. Shortages of goods, labor, or services indicate that their prices are too low to attract new entrants to the marketplace. For truckers that means offering wages that drivers consider worthwhile for the services and conditions demanded. As usual in these bogus “skill shortages stories”, the truth is easy to find. The trucking industry runs a state-of-the-art worker exploitation model. But there is a shortage of marks to burn.

For details see “Who’s to Blame for the Trucker Shortage?” by Lauren Weber in the WSJ (ungated copy here) — “Industry Relies on Inexperienced Drivers and Contractors Who Get Saddled with Debt, High Expenses.”

“‘Mr. Viscelli, who worked as a truck driver for several months while researching his 2016 book, The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream, says upward of 25% of long-haul truck drivers are independent contractors, also known as owner-operators. They are attracted by promises of being their own bosses, but the arrangement often saddles them with unsustainable debt and high expenses, he adds.

“Drivers typically receive training from big trucking companies or schools affiliated with them. Those who become independent contractors sign lease-to-own deals to purchase their vehicles, often with those same companies. But the terms are onerous, and drivers owe so much that they may end up working 70 or 80 hours a week just to pay back what they owe and cover expenses such as fuel and insurance. Drivers are suing some companies that use this model, saying they should be classified as employees rather than contractors.

“Even those working as employees have a hard time making ends meet, partly because they are only paid for the miles they drive, not time waiting to load and unload their rigs or sitting in traffic. Mr. Viscelli recounts a 16-hour day spent crawling through traffic in the New York area, only to get stuck at a New Jersey rail yard for the night. That day he drove 215 miles and earned $56. The result of these conditions? Drivers burn out quickly and quit.”

For more about the exploitation of truckers in America, see “Rigged” by Brett Murphy at USA Today — “Forced into debt. Worked past exhaustion. Left with nothing.” Remember that these were good jobs — when the Teamsters union was strong. Let’s look at the boom line: real wages over time. It shows America’s progress towards becoming a plutocrats’ paradise. What would a graphic of truckers’ profits look like?

Heavy Truck Driver Real Wages
From ZeroHedge.

More about those trucking jobs

From the bizarre “When Robots Take Bad Jobs” by Alana Semuels in The Atlantic. She can’t imagine alternatives other than poorly paid hard work or automation — such as lower profits and higher pay, even though she describes how political forces shaped the current market for drivers.

“There’s a reason the industry has trouble finding workers: The jobs are low-paid and grueling. Average compensation for a new driver ranges between $35,000 and $45,000 a year, and truckers spend long weeks away from their families, often doing tasks for which they don’t get paid, waiting for loads or delivery appointments. Workers for many companies last, on average, six months …Some manage to stick it out for a full year, but often only because they owe the trucking schools tuition money plus interest, he said. The 800,000 or so workers employed by long-haul truckload carriers are often classified as independent contractors and are barely making ends meet. …turnover at some of these companies is 30%, meaning the companies hire three people for one job over the course of a year. …

“Trucking hasn’t always been a hard-scrabble life. In the 1960s, the profession provided good, stable, unionized, blue-collar jobs. But in the 1980s, the federal government began deregulating the industry, according to Michael Belzer, an expert in the trucking industry and a professor at Wayne State University. Deregulation led to deunionization, wages fell, and a crop of new companies emerged that paid workers less and expected more out of them.”

Looking ahead to a New America.

This situation did not just happen. There was a multi-decade program to break America’s unions. Then we got massive immigration and the “gig economy” of contingent, no-benefit, not-independent contractors. All these depress wages and boost profits. After decades of this, the lower and middle classes are breaking.

The best is yet to come for the 1%. Team Trump will dismantle as much as possible of the New Deal regulatory apparatus — repealing regulations, repealing laws, defunding enforcement, and de-staffing the agencies. Beyond that lies a new industrial revolution — with massive layoffs, a worker surplus to drive wages down, and increased profitability.

American need not become a plutocrats’ paradise. We can re-take control, reform and rebuild. Here are some ideas what you can do to start the process.

For More Information

More about Trucking! Most articles are grossly one-sided, showing only the trucking industry’s story. Those that talk to drivers discover the reality is quite different.

Also see Paul Krugman’s “Jobs and Skills and Zombies” at the NYT, March 2014. “{M}ultiple careful studies have found no support for claims that inadequate worker skills explain high unemployment. … It’s a prime example of a zombie idea — an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die. … If employers are really crying out for certain skills, they should be willing to offer higher wages to attract workers with those skills. In reality, however, it’s very hard to find groups of workers getting big wage increases, ”

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts describing the 3rd industrial revolution, about inequality and social mobility, and especially these…

The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream
“The Big Rig” is available at Amazon.

Trucking: a story of modern America.

See The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream by Steve Viscelli (2016). From the publisher…

“Long-haul trucks have been described as sweatshops on wheels. The typical long-haul trucker works the equivalent of two full-time jobs, often for little more than minimum wage. But it wasn’t always this way. Trucking used to be one of the best working-class jobs in the United States.

The Big Rig explains how this massive degradation in the quality of work has occurred, and how companies achieve a compliant and dedicated workforce despite it. Drawing on more than 100 in-depth interviews and years of extensive observation, including six months training and working as a long-haul trucker, Viscelli explains in detail how labor is recruited, trained, and used in the industry. He then shows how inexperienced workers are convinced to lease a truck and to work as independent contractors. He explains how deregulation and collective action by employers transformed trucking’s labor markets–once dominated by the largest and most powerful union in US history–into an important example of the costs of contemporary labor markets for workers and the general public.”


13 thoughts on “So many open jobs for truck drivers! It’s another bogus skills shortage story.”

  1. You are right that the best is yet to come for the plutocrats. Just looking at trucking, Uber has acquired technology to replace any truck driver with a machine. It’s not working well enough yet for widespread use, but the technology will get better and cheaper. If nothing else, the threat of self-driving trucks gives the companies yet another tool to knock down driver earnings.

    I wonder what the Teamsters Union is doing to protect its members. “Driverless trucks: economic tsunami may swallow one of most common US jobs” — “America is producing more than ever before, but it is doing so with fewer and fewer workers. Once trucks become automated, where will these jobs go?” “U.S. and Europe Race to be First to Self-Driving Trucks“.

    Also if you want to talk about how the plutocrats are increasing their profits, look at how the overly revered “free markets” have dwindled to a few companies in a great many sectors of the economy and how they stamp out competition so they can maintain high profits.

    “Free market” healthcare would likely be even more destructive than predicted by the CBO because of unforeseeable actions performed in the name of profits for the very few.

    1. Pluto,

      All great points. The concentration of corporate power is the big but unreported story of the past 100 years, as the market share of the top 3 corps in most industries has skyrocketed. Some economists believe this is a major factor slowing growth and innovation.

  2. ,This situation did not just happen. There was a multi-decade program to break America’s unions. Then we got massive immigration and the “gig economy” of contingent, no-benefit, not-independent contractors. All these depress wages and boost profits. After decades of this, the lower and middle classes are breaking.”

    End of story, not the beginning by any measure.
    Good on ya, Mr. Blogger.

  3. Everybody overlooks the actual timing of these developments. Trucking wasn’t deregulated in the ’80s, as the article says, it was deregulated, to great fanfare, by President Jimmy Carter. I was there. I remember. Yeah, we all remember how Reagan crushed the air controllers’ union, but that wasn’t really the beginning. Another beginning was when Carter appointed Paul Volcker as chairman of the Federal Reserve System. He took advantage of high inflation rates to end CPI-indexed wage/salary contracts and his high interest rates were a trigger that started the exodus of industry from the U.S. He even bragged that his policies were going to produce “blood on the floor,” and wondered if the President would support him. He did.

    1. Achan,

      “Trucking wasn’t deregulated in the ’80s, as the article says, it was deregulated, to great fanfare, by President Jimmy Carter.”

      The big event in trucking was the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, signed by Carter on 1 July 1980 (see Wikipedia for details). Combined with the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, signed by Carter on 14 october 1980 (see Wikipedia), American freight transportation was reshaped during the next five years.

      So the article is correct. The bills were signed in 1980 — by Carter, as you note. Equally important, the regulatory agencies implemented the law during the early 1980s.

      1. OK, my bad. I was thinking “in the 80’s” blamed it on Reagan and Bush I, but it was, in fact, in Carter’s administration.

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  5. Dear blogger, You must have a class A CDL and a current or former driver to know so much about trucking, or did you just copy and paste and comment from others? Your article was at best 50% correct. Unless you have obtained a CDL and actually driven for a company your comments are nothing more than a rant about other articles written. Maybe I should advise you how to write an article with proper knowledge of subject. But who am I?

    1. War,

      “or did you just copy and paste and comment from others?”

      What a weird comment. I assume you didn’t read the post. It consists of excerpts quoting a wide range of experts. This is called journalism. Reporters seldom have subject-matter expertise in the subjects they report.

  6. Jeffrey Allender

    Any truck driver looking for a job, knows the transport section on Craigslist is bombarded with ads offering great bonuses, home weekly, blah blah blah. Theres probably 30 to 40 listings for these jobs a day, and its hard to filter out those when looking for a local job. Who wants to be away from home months at a time only making 40 grand a year? If you enjoy not having a life, and being by yourself 99% of the time while making crap pay, its right up your alley. Ill work at Mcdonalds flipping burgers for 10 dollars an hour.

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