Chain Reaction: Better wages, working conditions could solve trucker shortage

Chain Reaction: Better wages, working conditions could solve trucker shortage

NILES, Mich. --- One of the biggest issues in America’s supply chain is a lack of truck drivers.

While the American Trucking Association estimates a shortage of tens of thousands of drivers poor conditions and low pay are fueling the issue.

It's causing life-long truckers to start looking elsewhere for jobs.

“Unlike the people who are saying there’s a shortage, I’ve actually done this job, it was my career, I owned a trucking company myself. It’s a retention problem and the way drivers are treated,” Lewie Pugh, a former truck driver, says there’s plenty of trained CDL holders.

Lewie has 2.5 million miles of safe driving under his belt as a long-haul truck driver. He’s also the Executive Vice President of The Owner Operator Independent Driver Association, fighting to defend the rights of small business truckers.

When asked about a truck driver shortage in the country, he says there isn’t one.

“To say there’s a shortage is incorrectly. There’s over 400,000 new CDLs issued every year.”

Lewie's right. According to data from the White House, there was actually an average of 50,000 new CDLs and learners permits issued each month in 2021. That’s 600,000 thousand potential new drivers.

There’s also major incentives to become a truck driver like bonuses, weekends and home, and even free CDL training.

It is completely free to get your CDL license at Lake Michigan College.

“This is what’s been crazy is during a pandemic, we’ve created a program, and it’s full. So, I have no spots all the way until April,” Jeremy Burleson said, the Director of Regional Campuses at Lake Michigan College.

Jeremy says, in most cases, students are lined up with a high-paying jobs before they even finish the three-week course.

“I get logistics companies that call me, three times a week, from Holland all the way to Niles, asking to get in front of our students.”

If it’s not money, what else could be causing a shortage? High turnover rates and over-regulation in the industry turns a lot of guys away.

One study shows long-haul full-truckload drivers only spend an average of 6.5 hours per working day driving --- despite being allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours.

That means about 40 percent of their capacity is not being used. Many truckers also bear the burden of gas, insurance, and maintenance costs, which reduces their take home pay, creating significant challenges in recruiting and retaining drivers.

Jeremy argues it’s all about safety.

 “You know it’s hard to say there’s over regulation in something like this because this could be incredibly dangerous if it’s not done right. But at the same time, we need truck drivers out there. So how do you balance that out? How do you take down some barriers for students but still keep things safe,” Jeremy said.

Lewie, a former trucker, argues otherwise.

“It has nothing to do with safety. There is so many rules and regulations that have nothing to do with safety. By all means we want safe trucks. I want safe trucks. I am proud of my 2.5 million miles. I kept my truck up to safety but there’s silly stuff that has nothing to do with safety,” Lewie said.

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