Dangerous scheme to turn teens into long-haul truck drivers won’t solve driver shortage

An aerial image from January 16, 2022 shows the Los Angeles skyline as a semi-truck carrying an Amazon Prime trailer crosses a bridge over a section of Union Pacific railroad.

An aerial image from January 16, 2022 shows the Los Angeles skyline as a semi-truck carrying an Amazon Prime trailer crosses a bridge over a section of Union Pacific railroad.
Photo: Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Getty Images)

The federal government last week detailed a pilot program that will allow approximately 3,000 18-t0 20-year-elders to drive large rigs across state lines. The program was a requirement in the huge iinfrastructure bill adopted in November 15, 2021, and will allow teenagers without visual impairments or previous tickets to ride the whopping 80,000-deliver trucks on their own after a trial period.

The American Trucking Associations is an advocacy group that has been pushing for this program, as well as the narrative of America’s trucking shortage since, well, at least since I started my first writing gig at AOL Autos. The group has cited the idea of ​​this program for years as a way to mitigate an impending outage of our national maritime network.

Then the pandemic happened and global logistics systems around the world did not crash in itself, but this was definitely shaken. From now on, the Association is claiming to be short of 80,000 drivers. Holy shit! How are we still a functioning society? It seems that this figure, along with the global shipping hiccups due to the pandemic, was enough to scare Congress into approving a program that common sense would tell you is incredibly dangerous with very little benefit. for the society.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here, corn it is a capitalist society. Supply and demand are the law of the land. The only thing that creates a labor shortage is an industry that rejects what the market demands for that labor. Indeed, truckers have seen their wages stagnate for years, according to Barrons, and wage increases in recent years have not kept pace with inflation or even that of other industries in the United States

It’s not just trucking, of course. You may have noticed that a “lack of workers” for lower-paying, high-stress jobs was a theme in 2021 and looks set to return for 2022: Labor Boogaloo. Soaring inflation, stagnant wages and unacceptable working conditions mean that more and more people are encouraging employers to take their jobs and hustle them.

I’m not alone in thinking that this program is less about solving a shortage of truckers and more about hiring cheap, inexperienced labour. From Barrons.com:

The unemployment rate for workers in “transportation and material moving occupations” has fallen significantly since the worst of the financial crisis, but remains higher than the overall unemployment rate. Moreover, the gap between the overall unemployment rate and the unemployment rate for transport workers has remained broadly stable over the the last 20 years after taking seasonal variations into account.

A valuable new study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that there is not and never has been a serious shortage of people willing to work as truck drivers. In fact, they find that “the market for truck drivers performs about as well as other blue-collar occupations.”

And the Guardian:

This statement has been repeated consistently over the years and has recently been cited by industry groups in favor of a bill in Congress to lower the age requirement for a commercial driver’s license from 21 to 18. who claim to have difficulty finding and retaining enough drivers.

“The industry has recycled this narrative about every three months for over 20 years. There is no shortage of truckers,” said Desiree Wood, president of Real Women in Trucking. a problem of lack of wages and working conditions.”

And this expert, who told Congress last month that simply improving logistics so that every driver would be on the road just 18 minutes longer a day would be the equivalent of hiring 80,000 drivers. From Initiated:

David Correll, a researcher at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics, found that truckers only spend about 6.5 hours driving a day, even though federal safety regulations allow them to drive 11 hours a day.

He testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last month that 40% of trucking capacity in the United States is underutilized on a daily basis. by Correll to study found that adding just 18 minutes of driving time to each existing trucker’s day would have the same effect as hiring 80,000 more drivers. At the time, ata said the report did not address the nuances of the industry.

Improving this logistics would also improve the lives of drivers. Trucking is incredibly tough work. There are a lot of waits at ports that don’t have facilities open to drivers. Long, strange hours away from home mean there’s no time for a family or even a normal life (an American trucker told the Guardian it took her three years to get an appointment with an optometrist. But it’s not like truckers need eyes to see, is it?), Additionally, poor working conditions and stagnant wages are all real problems in the trucking industry. Towermore in the trucking industry since 1995 has been a staggering 90 percent.

The answer according to the ATA? Teenagers. Instead of fighting to improve conditions for their workers, trucking companies are pushing to hire teenagers to drive long-haul trips. Of course, you can pay a brand new teenager straight out of CDL certification a lot less than a dyed-in-the-wool road warrior. They are less likely to complain about associated physical foods with driving, as their bodies are lithe and haven’t been destroyed by a decade behind the wheel.

There is, however, a slight drawback. The leading cause of death among teenagers? Car accidents. The US Department of Transportation has found that although teens drive less, they crash at incredible rates. According to the most recent data from the National Highway Safety Administration.

What will it be like when these teens drive some of the biggest vehicles on the road in five hours of sleep and long hours of monotonous driving? Fully developed adult brains find the task mentally exhausting. It’s really not a question of if, but when something terrible happens with a teenager driving a tractor-trailer.

But that’s the kind of thing that industries create lobby groups to — save big business money on everything else. The ATA isn’t the only organization pushing for more truckers. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says there is a need for more truckers, but the problem isn’t bringing new pilots into the industry, it’s keeping the triageed-and-true they already have. From MarketWatch:

A bipartisan group of more than 60 U.S. lawmakers are making headlines thanks to their letter Wednesday, it sounds the alarm about a “national shortage of truck drivers” and calls on the Department of Labor to accelerate grants for unemployed Americans who want to train to become truck drivers.

Todd Spencer, president of a professional association of independent truckers, has heard this kind of talk before, and he doesn’t hear it.

“What they’re proposing here is to use taxpayer dollars to provide training to people who realistically won’t pursue this as a career. It will be something they will try, and many will quickly burn out,” the president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association told MarketWatch in an interview.


“When they say there’s a shortage, you have to ignore basic math. Each year, states license more than 400,000 people to drive large trucks,” Spencer said.

“So whether they say there is a shortage of 60,000 or 80,000 or whatever, over 400,000 is a lot of people. Where are they all going? don’t stick to this profession for which they have just obtained a license.”

“The reality is, if the work you’re offering sucks, is the solution really to find more suckers, or should you improve the work to get people to come and stay?” Spencer added.

It seems like a tragedy in the making, but in a country where we accept death as part of business, greed will continue to find new and exciting ways to wreak havoc in the name of profit.

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