How Many Truck Drivers Do We Really Need?
Do we really have a shortage of truck drivers in this country or are we simply adding up the empty seats across the land and calling that under-utilized capacity a driver short-age?
The very first indicator of a shortage — any shortage — is a cost increase. Hay is currently in high demand across much of the Midwest because of drought conditions, and prices are going through the roof. Several years ago, when a good portion of the world’s wheat production was diverted to biofuel feedstock, the cost of pasta, beer, and other grain-based products skyrocketed. Kraft Dinner jumped in my grocery store from five boxes for a buck to four boxes for three dollars.
In early 2007, Mexican consumers faced a tortilla crisis; prices tripled and riots ensued. A beer panic hit Germany later that year as prices of the golden brew soared — partly due to biofuel diversion.
That’s what happens when you have a shortage, or the threat of a genuine and pending shortage. One could hardly call what’s happening in trucking a crisis.
Shippers are watching the situation. Analysts are warning of potentially higher prices at the grocery stores. Truckload fleets are upping driver pay by a penny a mile here and a dollar a day there. Rates are more or less stagnant, store shelves re-main fully stocked, and only the worst paying freight is slow to move. By any of the usual economic indicators, we are in no imminent danger of a driver shortage or a capacity crisis.
I believe the problem is actually just a numbers game. Fleets have unseated trucks, they can’t hire drivers to fill those trucks, therefore there’s a shortage. That however, contradicts established economic wisdom — as outlined above.
Here’s what I think is actually happening. Read more at Trucking Info online, in the Equipment section.