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Want to fix the supply chain? Start with paying truckers fairly, group says


As the nation becomes increasingly concerned over supply chain bottlenecks, a trade group representing small business truckers has presented a series of real-world solutions that includes more trucking parking and better pay for drivers.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) recently responded to a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) call for feedback from the trucking industry regarding points of weakness in the U.S. supply chain.

In an October 18 letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer points out that the truckers of America are more than willing to step up for their country and that they have been on the front lines of the pandemic since the very beginning.

“In the wake of the pandemic, truckers proved to the nation that they are willing to meet any challenge. Professional drivers literally put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe. When many Americans began working from home, truckers continued to crisscross the country, picking up and delivering items that we all needed. The perseverance of the nation’s truck drivers has never faltered in the face of many difficult obstacles, including the current global supply chain crisis,” Spencer wrote.

Spencer then neatly sums up the multiple factors that are hampering truckers as they try to deliver needed goods as efficiently as possible:

Unfortunately, most of what we are seeing today is not a surprise to our members who have dealt with a dysfunctional supply chain for decades. It’s not realistic to expect the supply chain will suddenly operate efficiently on a 24/7 schedule, especially when drivers aren’t being fully paid for their time. The trucking industry already operates around the clock, but drivers are often restricted by factors beyond their control such as excessive detention time and the lack of readily-available, safe parking. These pervasive problems must be fixed if the administration hopes to implement any significant supply chain solutions. Additional concerns that need urgent attention from federal regulators and lawmakers include providing fair levels and methods of compensation, repealing the exemption that denies truckers guaranteed overtime pay, and better driver training programs among others.

While global supply shortages have recently forced some truckers off the road due to regulatory processing delays and difficulties finding replacement parts for faulty equipment, the current crisis is not due to a shortage of truck drivers. Because the real bottlenecks in the supply chain occur at pickup and delivery points, adding more trucks and drivers will simply make lines longer, not faster. As part of any efforts to fix the supply chain, DOT must prioritize resolving the underlying circumstances that have led to excessive driver turnover. We support the administration’s efforts to improve the quality of trucking jobs, but this must start with treating drivers as essential workers which means valuing and compensating them for all of their time. 

Spencer points to excessive detention times (and the fact that many drivers do not get paid for hours spent at a shipper or receiver facility) as a major factor in causing driver turnover, which in turn causes supply chain disruption.

Exempting drivers from guaranteed overtime pay increases problems with detention time because shippers, receivers, and others in the industry have no financial incentive to load and unload trucks in an efficient manner. If a shipper or receiver knows that they won’t be on the hook to pay overtime, they simply don’t care as much about respecting a driver’s time. If repealed, drivers would either be fairly compensated for the extra hours they work, or shippers and receivers would find ways to reduce delays to avoid paying overtime. Simply put, the current law ensures that a driver’s time is less valued than other professions. That must change. A majority of OOIDA members (79 percent) are in favor of removing the exemption, especially company drivers (96 percent), and 60 percent believe this will help address the detention time issue.3 Removing the motor carrier exemption enables truckers to be paid during all work-related hours, not just when the truck is in motion. This means that a driver is entitled to the full compensation earned during their duty period. Better pay will encourage more experienced, safer drivers to stay in the industry. OOIDA encourages eliminating the FLSA motor carrier exemption, but the administration and Congress should consider a temporary repeal for the duration of the supply chain crisis.

Spencer also calls for more safe truck parking to improve job satisfaction, safety, and efficiency for truck drivers.

Increasingly, drivers are forced to spend more and more of their on-duty time finding a place to park rather than keeping goods moving. This makes it challenging for truckers to rest when they are tired, makes it difficult to comply with hours of service regulations, and often forces them to park in hazardous locations. This creates safety issues not only for truckers, but for the motoring public as well. OOIDA has been working to address this problem in a meaningful way for a long time, but so far we’ve been unable to get much more than studies and reports telling us what we already know – more capacity is needed. 


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