My Driver Shortage Opinion - Perspective From An Over The Road Legend Les Mann

In my opinion, the trucking industry is like a company that clear cuts a section of forest and then seeks approval to clear cut another area. The problem is that it’s not sustainable. I believe this is an accurate comparison of how the industry treats its drivers. They are looking to squeeze what they can get out of a worker while maximizing profits before they walk away. Fortunately, many companies involved in forestry are reforesting, making that industry sustainable. I believe the same can be done in trucking by paying attention to driver’s needs and investing in their long-term growth.


The trucking industry needs more drivers due to those that had enough, retiring drivers, and a growing population that requires more goods transported. However, at the same time, wages haven’t kept pace with inflation. I can attest to this as many companies are still advertising wages that I was making 20 years ago. Many think that drivers earn an above-average income, which on the surface appears to be the case until you consider the hours worked. Hours worked could exceed 70 hours a week. Also, there is waiting time and traffic. While at the same time being away from home to serve a public that in many cases couldn’t care less until the grocery shelves go empty.


The industry needs to Focus on retention by investing in driver development and creating a career path so that drivers have advancement opportunities. Increasing wages and improving working conditions are also necessary to improve driver retention. Taking proactive steps and engaging the drivers would be a better approach to solving the driver shortage problem. Instead, many companies keep doubling down on ineffective policies that can make work more difficult for drivers while benefitting the organization. Instead of lobbying the government to lower the driving age or reduce barriers to entry, perhaps an industry-wide shift should focus on retention. Otherwise, it won’t matter how many more enter the industry. Many will leave pretty quickly once they see the working conditions.


In all fairness, companies also have to deal with the economic realities of a competitive industry. Still, I certainly think more can be done to make this industry better for everyone. For example, perhaps lobbying the government to put a price floor in shipping rates instead of seeking to hire younger drivers and looking for government-sponsored training programs to help introduce new drivers into a less than ideal environment. I think a price floor in shipping rates would allow for more innovation. It could potentially allow new companies to enter the market while increasing profits, which would allow for more investment in the industry. The question would be whether any of this would filter to the driver? I suppose the government could also pass legislation ensuring a certain percentage of profits went into employee retention and career development programs. The last time I checked, trucking was an essential business.


The benefits of investing in and maintaining an experienced workforce would be increased efficiency, reduced costs, and improved profits. In addition, I believe an increase in wages and improvements in working conditions would result in more loyal and caring drivers. The public perception of the industry would also likely improve with a more experienced workforce, as there would probably be fewer accidents and incidences on the roadway. An increase in wages should be offset by improved efficiency and, most likely, a reduction in insurance rates. It appears that some companies are taking a more proactive approach in recent years to recruit and retain drivers, which I find hopeful. In contrast, others may be simply waiting for autonomous trucks to take over the road so they can discard their throw-away workforce. While no one knows the future for sure, I believe fully autonomous vehicles replacing the driver in a significant way will take longer than most people think.



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Truck Focus Podcast - Special Edition - Less Mann Over The Road Legend


Les and I connected over LinkedIn recently, and from our first conversation, I could tell Les has a true passion for his profession as an over-the-road legend professional driver and driver training.


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