Poor conditions and low pay for truckers helped fuel supply chain crisis

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The idea of ​​a national truck driver shortage has gained prominence as a cause of widespread supply chain issues that have crippled the economy over the past year. But some experts say there’s really no shortage of drivers – and suggest that the bigger issues within the industry are overlooked.

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Overcrowding at ports in California continues to cause supply chain delays as ships wait to unload their cargo unloaded offshore and take too long at docks waiting to be transported by container truck or rail. The delay has been attributed to the lack of several requirements, including Truck Driver and equipment such as The wheels of the aircraft And shipping container,

call for new drivers continue; a report from American Trucking Association says that this year the shortfall will reach an all-time high of 80,000.


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“We don’t have a truck driver shortage at ports,” said Steve Viselli, an economic sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania. “The problem is that the time of these truck drivers is used so inefficiently. Cranes, longshoreman labour, all that is costly and efficiently used. ,

In the port ecosystem, truck drivers are paid by the load, not by the hour, making them some of the most vulnerable workers, Viselli said. Other port workers receive overtime pay and belong to unions, but truck drivers are classified as independent contractors. As such, they are not considered employees and do not receive any benefits or protections related to that position.

“Truck drivers are shock absorbers,” he said. “If the crane is running behind, you can just let the trucker idle there. You can back them up for hours, because they’re not getting paid.”

Because of how they are classified and compensated, truck drivers wait as long as they need them, at no cost to shipping companies. That means there’s little incentive to replace them and use them more efficiently, Viselli said.

In contrast, efforts to reduce inefficiencies in other areas of ports are ongoing and have been successful. For example, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced a plan last month Fine Shipping companies that leave their cargo at the dock for a very long time. The promise of fines proved to be so successful that the ports delay in implementing them Because early compliance led to a 26 per cent drop in older containers.

If truck drivers are considered employees, their employers may be less inclined to make them sit idle for hours, as it will cost them hourly wages and overtime, Viselli said. Instead, truck-related inefficiencies in the supply chain and at ports most severely cost the drivers themselves.

“They can wait hours to get there, wait hours to get the chassis, and then if the port says, ‘No, we don’t want that load,’ that driver gets $150 per load. He now has to find somewhere and drop it, and a six-hour job turns into 10,” Viselli said. “The system is built with that flexible free truck driver labor.”

California Assembly Bill 5, or AB5, which trucking companies strongly opposed, would change the classification of many truck drivers from independent contractor to employee. Reclassification may provide an incentive to make more efficient use of truck drivers’ time, but legal challenges have prevented the state from implementing it.

For now, misclassification of truck drivers continues, said Professor Veena Dubal at the University of California, Hastings, College of Law.

Dubal said, “It is easier to maintain a contractor’s mask in a truck context because workers can feel free when driving long distances and trucking companies can claim they are free because they are not in the cab with them. ” “This is exactly the type of job this job security was written for.”

She said rental entities maintain control in trucking, even if they claim otherwise. They alone determine where drivers must go to pick up cargo, how much cargo they need to transport and how long they have to complete the job. Companies may face consequences for poor compliance, but most of the cost falls on the truck drivers themselves.

“These owner-operators work for virtually nothing,” said Teamsters Joint Council 7 president Rome Alois. “They have to pay for their own truck, their own maintenance, and gas, which is up now. It is also quite common that they have to pay for their own equipment, such as the chassis. In some cases, these people owe money. are terminated.”

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Still, the prospects of small-business ownership, independence, and financial reward are attractive to many people, especially immigrants, people of color and others seeking promising jobs with low barriers to entry. .

Ryan Matsushita, a regional used truck manager at truck dealership Inland Kenworth, said he has more willing drivers than he can accommodate right now.

“I literally can’t have a truck on my lot. I tell maybe three to four customers not for what I sell,” he said. “We’re sold out for the next 12 months, maybe 24. I’ve had to tell about half of the people who have already signed agreements that we won’t be able to fulfill their orders. We just can’t meet demand. Can. “

Matsushita spoke of another way the supply chain inflicts costs on truck drivers – the price of trucks has increased significantly. Prices were already higher this year than before the pandemic, he said, but they shot up by 20 percent over the past three months: just a day’s cab in a base-level new truck. Now that’s well over $100,000, and a sleeper cab truck can cost around $200,000. The value of used trucks has also recently increased from $40,000 to $60,000. Dramatic price increases fall on drivers who rent or buy vehicles, further adding to job stress.

But the industry wasn’t always like this, Viselli and Dubal said. Trucking used to be a lot more lucrative.

“Trucking is an extremely difficult job. It is really taxing on the body. It requires people to be away from their families, getting up at really odd times. It is really lonely,” said Dubal. But the people involved were willing to do so because there was a salary premium. In the last 30 years, that hasn’t happened fast enough because of regulation.”

In the 1980s, conditions in the industry worsened after deregulation, essentially turning stable, well-paying jobs into gig work, which is what has happened in the taxi industry.

Industry experts say the poor conditions have given rise to retention issues, which have been perceived as shortages. He says there is no dearth of interested drivers. The problem is that poor conditions and low pay create a revolving door through which new drivers very soon become former drivers.

Credit: www.nbcnews.com /

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