Truckers send message

Truckers send message amid supply chain bottleneck

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Truckers ‘willing to work,’ insist they’re not to blame for supply chain woes

When it comes to the pandemic-era supply chain bottlenecks creating inflation and delayed deliveries of consumer goods, some have placed the blame on America’s truck drivers.

Specifically, concerns have been raised over labor shortages for qualified drivers to deliver the products consumers want in bulk.

Last year, trucking companies in the United States suffered a deficit of 80,000 drivers, according to data from the American Trucking Associations. The trade association also estimates that about 72% of America’s freight transport moves by trucks, which shows just how dependent consumers are on drivers to deliver goods.

But amid low pay and less than desirable working conditions, many are leaving the industry in search of better opportunities. Meanwhile, drivers’ pay has been cut from an adjusted median of $110,000 in 1980 to just $47,130 in 2020.

Yet with respect to the bottlenecked supply chain, drivers currently in the industry have a clear message: they are not at fault.

“Truckers themselves are willing to work,” Tony Carrk, executive director at special interest watchdog group Accountable.US, told Yahoo Finance on Tuesday.

“The pay is not keeping pace. There’s a lot of companies that are misclassifying their workers as independent contractors versus employees,” Carrk said.

To that point, approximately 3.5 million truck drivers are employed in the United States, out of which 1 in 9 are independent, and most are owner-operators. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published data back in 2019 concluding that if wages would increase in the industry, then any long-term labor shortage would be improved.

“We do need to have more truckers. [They are] a vital part of keeping the supply chains working, and we need to address these persistent problems that have been occurring long before the pandemic,” Carrk said.

More train for CDLs

However, trucking schools are experiencing an uptick in applicants eager to train for their commercial driver’s license (CDLs).

“Enrollment for 2021 was approximately 1900 students for us and our projected for 2022, we’re looking at close to 2,500 students,” Landon Elks, director of operations at Trans Tech CDL Truck Driving School, told Yahoo Finance in a phone interview.

The reason: new federal regulations that toughened entry level driver requirments. The new mandate, which took effect on Feb 7, requires prospective truck drivers to complete training from a school listed on the Training Provider Registry. This change would mean those who learned to drive from family or friends will be ineligible to take the CDL test.

Even despite a low inventory of drivers, truck driving jobs have been increasing steadily for several years now. And some trucking companies have introduced fairer wages for their workers due to the lack of CDL drivers.

“Some of these individuals have an opportunity to make more than they ever have before. The pay is pretty competitive right now, but as the individual continues to gain experience, I think that is [when it] deteriorates some of these drivers,” Elks told Yahoo Finance.

Additionally, a recent Accountable.US report suggested that some of the largest trucking companies were rigging the system at the expense of American consumers and truck drivers.

“The big trucking companies are boasting record profits. They’re saying that they’re in the most profitable position that they have been in history in some cases,” Carrk said.

“Meanwhile, what we’re seeing is that prices are going up for average consumers and we’re not seeing any improvement for the working conditions for truckers themselves,” he added.

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