A major trucking trade group recently told the U.S. Department of Commerce that high turnover is the real reason that companies are struggling to find drivers, not an overall shortage in the pool of available drivers.

Earlier this month at an International Trade Administration’s Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness (ACSCC) meeting, industry officials urged Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to take immediate action to address the “driver shortage” that they say threatens the nation’s supply chain.

In response to the driver shortage claims, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh penned an August 24 letter to Raimondo.

“As the largest trade association representing small-business truckers and professional truck drivers, our members reject the notion of a mythical driver shortage, especially claims of one at an ‘all-time high,'” OOIDA said.

The group goes on to argue that there appears to be no shortage of new drivers entering the industry, with 400,000 new CDLs issued per year. OOIDA also pointed to a 2019 U.S. Department of Labor report that “did not find indications of a driver shortage when examining the issue.”

The letter bluntly states that “For decades, our country’s largest motor carriers and the trade associations that represent them have perpetuated the myth of a driver shortage to promote policies that maintain the cheapest labor supply possible. We encourage the Department of Commerce to follow the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) lead and finally focus on improving driver retention to address supply chain disruption rather than expanding driver pools.”

OOIDA also pointed to industry pain points that they say contribute to driver turnover:

A few areas that need urgent attention from federal regulators and lawmakers include increasing truck parking capacity, providing fair levels and methods of compensation, repealing the exemption that denies truckers guaranteed overtime pay, better driver training programs, and eliminating excessive detention time. For instance, a majority of OOIDA members who operate under the 60 hour/7-day rule and those who operate under the 70 hour/8-day rule spend between 11 and 20 hours each week waiting to load or unload their truck. Additionally, drivers are allocating more and more of their on-duty time searching for safe parking locations due to capacity shortfalls in every region of the country. Addressing these inefficiencies will repair supply chain vulnerabilities in a far more sustainable manner than simply allowing more drivers to enter the industry.

Pugh concluded:

OOIDA is eager to work with Executive Agencies on strategies that will help make trucking a more viable and rewarding career choice for Americans who are prepared to enter the driver workforce. The Department of Commerce along with the Administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force must prioritize resolving the underlying circumstances that have led to excessive churn. Otherwise, we anticipate turnover rates will remain precariously high or even increase no matter how many new drivers are eligible to enter the industry. We would welcome any opportunity to further discuss these issues with you and other Department of Commerce officials at your convenience.

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