What We Have Here is an Efficiency Shortage

 

We are always hearing talk about a driver shortage. Lately the terms capacity crunch and capacity shortage have entered our lexicon. They all are basically saying the same thing. If you are a recruiter trying to fill a seat, you are trying to tell your bosses that there is a driver shortage. If you are a shipper, and you have to pay a higher rate, you will probably tell your company comptroller that there is a capacity crunch. If you are a driver who is sitting and waiting to get your load counted on a shipper load and count – seal intact pre loaded trailer you just shake your head.

 

The system has always been inefficient. We are all complicit. In the past the driver could work a 16 hour day. We could log it as a 13 hour day. We hoped to get paid for 10. That meant that driver could “give” 6 hours a day away. “Free” has never been free. Subsidizing something does not make something less costly. It just changes how it gets paid.

 

Free is the enemy of efficiency. Whenever anything is free, it will inevitably be wasted. For a system to be truly efficient things need to be properly priced. In my college Economics 101 class the teacher would hold up a wooden pencil. At the time they cost about 5 cents. The pencil included the graphite (lead) wood, metal band and an eraser. All these things had to be transported, assembled and put on the shelf. It is the miracle of a free economic system that all of this could be done for a nickel. None of it was free.

 

I was reading an article the other day about operator out of service violations. There were something like 37,000 operator out of service violations of the 14 hour rule. There were about 20,000 for the 11 hour rule. That verifies that we are an inefficient industry. I wonder of all those drivers who worked in excess of 14 hours – how many of those hours were paid. I would bet less than 10.

 

Let us take a look at our industry. Free has always had a cost. The turnover rate in the trucking industry has traditionally hovered between 90 and 100 percent. The average professional driving career has lasted about 3.2 years. That includes old guys like me who drive for 30+ years. No one has ever given me a turnout statistic. What percentage of drives earn a CDLA and do not last a year?

 

What is the price of free? I don’t know. Let me ask you this. Who would you rather have driving that truck sharing the highway with your family? Would you rather it be a rookie or a veteran? Give me a veteran. To me – a company driver should get paid for all of their time working. The 14 hour rule and electronic enforcement did not create a problem. They exposed it. We need to fix the efficiency shortage.

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About Jeff Clark

Jeff Clark of Kewaunee, WI has been driving a truck for 24 years. He has been an owner operator for 11 years.

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