The Biggest Issue Today: Driver Turnover
The trucking industry has been -and will always remain- an integral part of American society. Trucking and rail are the backbones of this country. Truckers feed, clothe, and fuel America. Trucking can be a rewarding career with the right opportunity, but for some, the reward is not enough. At present, the trucking industry is feeling the effects of high turnover rates amongst drivers, but what is causing it, and how can we fight the stats that are hurting our industry?
Many factors contribute to the high turnover rate, some can be changed, and others cannot. Here are a few of the factors that are contributing to the alarming decline in truck drivers.
Regulation has seen a stranglehold on the industry. Once, you could drive through the night if you wish, but now you have legal requirements to have rest breaks. That, coupled with the fact that most drivers are also paid by the mile, the potential amount of money one could make has decreased over the past 20 years. Moreover, with tighter log book regulations and higher fines, as well as inspections and weigh stations, truckers are feeling insurmountable pressure from the government every time they turn the key.
Poor rates of pay
At 50 cents a mile -which is the higher rate of pay- drivers find themselves away from home longer and killing themselves from overwork so they can try to make a decent living. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the rates per mile to be as low as 28 cents a mile. $21 an hour sounds like good money, but that is until you factor in all the other costs drivers have to pay, such as insurance or truck payments.
When the general public thinks about truckers, what springs to mind are images of overweight foul-mouthed gentlemen who hog the road and drive like maniacs? There are other less savory opinions of the people who keep America going, but let’s not mention them here. Truckers get a lot of heat for things they have no control over and are always the first to be blamed for any issues with the load they carry or the time it took to get there. The general populous seems to think that Truckers control the weather and everything else that prevented the load from getting to them on time. This is not the case, and if more people were respectful of truckers, the turnover wouldn’t be as high as it is at present.Aggh
Being a trucker can be a lonely job. Most humans are hard-wired for social interactions with days, and often weeks on the road. Truckers miss out on treasured moments like birthdays, graduations, and first steps. Many truckers cannot handle being away from home, and eventually, pack it in before their spouses leave them. Divorce rates among truckers are about 20 percent. With the need to save their families, many truckers will quit making their marriage work.
Poor Working Conditions
There is no excuse for a load not getting to its destination on time, weather included. One of the biggest dangers to truckers is the weather. Most trucking companies could care less about what the weather is like, so long as the goods make it to the customer on time. 840 truckers died in 2018 alone that is up from 786 in the year previous. But, the weather and money-hungry bosses aren’t the truckers only enemy, sitting is up there too. Truckers sit for long periods; as such, they are at risk of health issues such as pinched nerves and blood clots. Health concerns are a significant contributor to high turnover rates in the industry.
Rising Fuel Costs
Let’s face it, folks, fuel isn’t getting any cheaper. Moreover, the fuel put into the rig is almost always paid for by the trucker themselves. If a trucker makes a maximum of 50 cents per mile and say, for example, they haul a load from Calgary to El Paso, that is 1723.3 miles at a total profit of about $860 one way. Now the fuel to get there would cost about $950, so over half their wages just went to fuel alone. Thus, the trucker is faced with trying to pick up loads along the way to make up for the profit lost to the fuel costs.
Going back to the topic of money – which is essential- many truckers new to the industry see the amount of money they could earn and start dreaming of the better life they and their family are about to enjoy. But, after just a few weeks on the road, the reality of how much money they are going to have to pay to keep the rig up, as well as food, fuel, hotel rooms, insurance, etc. hits home. Truckers can’t afford the overheads, and a chief complaint from ex-truckers is simply that they were ignorant of the costs, or they were ill-advised by the trucking company that hired them.
Office Politics/Workplace Bullying
Another complaint from ex-truckers is the stress caused by their supervisors or bosses. Supervisors play favorites, and there are reports of loads given to one driver over the other, even though the trucker who didn’t get the load is closer to the drop off point in relation to where they live. Some trucking company owners are mean to those who they think are underperforming and punish them by not giving them jobs. Many in the industry don’t last long because they don’t stick up for themselves, or when they do, they are told that any other company is worse than the one they are working for. There is a lot of psychological abuse in the industry, but there are just as many good bosses as there are bad ones.
Other factors to consider
Other contributing factors to the high turnover rate include:
- Lack of communication between drivers and the trucking company
- Changes to personal life
- Lack of work
- Broken promises
Truck driving has always been an occupation that provides a worker with the opportunity to earn above-average wages relative to educational requirements. However, the benefit of higher compensation comes with costs, most of which are outlined above.