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There isn't a shortage of truck drivers they just don't want to drive for mega carriers anymore

Grace Dean   

There isn't a shortage of truck drivers — they just don't want to drive for mega carriers anymore
  • During the pandemic, trucking companies have claimed that there is a driver shortage.
  • But Jason Miller, a professor, says drivers just don't want to drive for mega carriers anymore.

Photos of empty shelves have littered social media over the past year. And these, in part, have been blamed on a lack of truck drivers.

$4 but they've been picked up more widely amid the very tangible supply chain disruption during the pandemic.

Some companies have been hiking up wages and $4 to new truck drivers, saying that no one wants to work for them anymore. The American Trucking Association's chief economist $4 in October that the US trucker shortage had reached "an all-time high."

But some truck drivers, as well as industry experts, $4. Jason Miller, associate professor of supply-chain management at Michigan State University, told Insider that there isn't a shortage of truck drivers, just a shift in where they're working.

They don't want to drive for mega carriers anymore, he said.

"Rather than there being a shortage, we've seen that what economists would call a reallocation of drivers," Miller said. As of January 2022, around 1.53 million Americans worked in the truck transportation industry, up by 0.9% from two years prior, per BLS data compiled by Miller and viewed by Insider.

Miller said many drivers had either become owner operators or started working for smaller carriers. He shared BLS data with Insider, which shows that the average size of US trucking establishments plummeted from 10.6 employees at the end of 2019 to 9.4 employees in the third quarter of 2021.

$4 who want to "pay the drivers peanuts" and don't cover the hours they can spend waiting at shippers and receivers. "You're not a name, you're a number," Gary Otterson, a 20-year trucking veteran from Alabama, said. "They want to reduce the driver to an expendable resource."

As well as ditching mega carriers, Miller said that a "substantial" number of drivers had also moved to short-haul freight, citing BLS data. This was partially because of a shift in demand from manufacturing-related deliveries to consumer-oriented freight, he said.

But the move to short-haul freight also stems down to drivers wanting to avoid COVID-19 and the intensity of life on the road. To over-the-road drivers, trucking is just as much of a lifestyle as it is a profession: they have to eat at truck stops, sleep in their vehicles, and spend weeks away at a time.

"I have a three-year-old daughter that I've watched grow up over video chat," Joe Kattermann, a CDL driver trainer at Werner Enterprises, $4. "I spend more time video chatting with my family than I do actually with them."

Spot rates have soared during the pandemic

A combination of drivers moving to both smaller carriers and short-haul driving "has helped create this very tight capacity" and caused spot rates in the US to rise to "absolutely unprecedented levels," Miller said.

"People seem to think trucking capacity is very flexible, but it really isn't because so many carriers are regionalized," he said. "All of a sudden you have the situation where even though the total number of workers is the same, the lanes on which drivers want to haul are going to be different."

Some drivers have quit their jobs at larger carriers in favor of buying their own truck and becoming an independent owner-operator to cash in on the high spot prices, Miller said.

Miller said rising prices for freight transport had had a "minimal" impact on the $4 the US is witnessing. This is because a company's expenditure on truck transportation typically only makes up between 3% and 6% of its revenues.

"People are seeing record ocean freight prices, record air freight prices, record truck transportation prices, and they want to blame that for the inflationary effects we're seeing, and that's just not what's going on," Miller said. He added that changes in commodity prices were largely behind current inflation.


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