From driver associations to fleets, to corporations and to shippers, everyone is telling the same worn out story that driver’s respect, respect of their families and proper compensation for their work is at the pinnacle of the transportation industry. I call bullshit.
In the Truck Driver Shortage Analysis from 2015 written by Bob Costello, of the American Trucking Associations, he highlights that “All companies in the supply chain, including trucking companies, shippers and receivers, need to treat drivers with the respect that they deserve.” He insists that better treatment by the supply chain is a key part to the course of action in combating the driver shortage. This coupled with a pay increase, sign-on bonuses and compensation packages should all be used to bring potential drivers to the industry.
Costello highlights that more at-home time is extremely important but finishes the point by explaining the industry can only reduce length-of-haul and increase at-home time so much. Which may be true, freight does need to move coast to coast 24/7, 365 days per year, but this is where I pose the question, what if drivers were compensated enough for their time spent on the road, that they didn’t have to be out nearly 12 months a year just to reach the so-called “average income” of ~$80,000 to take care of their families. What if drivers were receiving the pay that they deserve per mile, taking out the need to spend so many hours, days and weeks away from their loved ones? Why isn’t the idea of simply just paying employees what they deserve on the table?
When asked the question of “would you want to be a truck driver?” Every CEO, President, VP, and every person in upper management does not hesitate to ensure that they would never hop into the driver’s seat and hit the road. Now of course, this comes with a lot of industries, upper management tends to prize their position in every company, and would rather not trade spots with the workers on the floor, but nine times out of 10, these managers, CEO’s, VPs and everyone in between aren’t preaching for “better respect and pay for their employees” while never fully following through. These lead hands, managers, supervisors, workers organizations, associations, etc. are ensuring these employees, doing the dirty work on the ground floor are getting the right pay for the skills they have.
An example of this is in the world of trades, if we narrow in on plumbers, for instance, we see that after three years as an apprentice, skilled workers can apply to become a journeyman. These journeymen make on average $35.95 per hour in Ontario, this number increasing with experience. So sure, these supervisors, lead hands, managers, etc. are comfortable with their positions, but they can also confidently say that they believe their workers are being properly paid for the skills they possess.
So where does this divide come in? Carriers who pride themselves on having a fleet of skilled drivers, that were hired because they met or exceeded company standards with experience, accident-free miles and clear background checks are in no way being paid properly for their commitment to not only their profession but also the company they are with.
This standard that these skilled professional drivers are being held at is prevalent not only in the companies they work for but among the general public as well. It is very clear to everyone the difference between a quality driver and someone in the industry for the pay cheque. Ultimately this standard that we are holding drivers to should parallel the standard they are being paid, their time on the road and more importantly their time away from their families needs to be properly compensated to attract and maintain quality drivers.
The main focus in all of this is that we can’t expect high quality work, devotion and attention to detail from a worker if they aren’t being paid to do so. Driver’s are rarely sticking with companies for more than one year. In Canada, 15% of top fleet employers have 0-15% turnover, and 42% have between 16-30% turnover. Drivers are constantly moving on to the next, better-paying opportunity. And can we really blame them? They see little to no benefits of their jobs so they are just looking for someone who will pay a couple of extra cents per mile, or promise them an extra couple days at home a month.
Ultimately, there is no devotion to companies anymore, because respect has been lost long ago from both sides. Employers find it nearly impossible to compensate driver’s regardless how much they appreciate them due to rates dropping alarmingly for the past 10 years which is magnified by bad carriers taking advantage of this, pushing these rates down as much as they could to better themselves financially. And the driver’s have completely lost respect for the industry that once treated them fairly for their honest work, paying them livable wages, all while allowing for a healthy work-life balance.
Every industry has its pitfalls, every employee will feel undervalued at one time or another, that is the working world. But to take so much from an industry that does so much for our nation economically, literally the driving force behind it, is pretty damn bold. When will driver’s say enough is enough, what is the course of action then? When one refuses to work, then a fleet refuses to work, to numerous fleets of driver’s refusing to work resulting in thousands of stationary trucks, filled with North America’s everyday needs, all because of the lack of respect in the industry… what, happens, then.