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Is There Really a Driver Shortage?

AV Fleet

AvatarFleet exists to solve the driver problem for the trucking industry, so it’s natural that we search for new articles and studies that help shed light on the problem. Of course, the majority of authors frame the problem as a “shortage” of qualified people.

I’ll come back to that topic in a moment, but first, here’s an interesting spin that I haven’t seen for years. The thrust of this article, which was featured in January’s Bulk Transporter, suggests that the ubiquitous driver shortage can be solved by lowering the minimum age and corresponding levels of required driving experience for new entrants.

I say it’s interesting, because I believe this idea has some legs. Most sound thinkers would agree that the minimum age of 21 imposed by the feds is arbitrary. In fact a recent study showed more than 80 percent agree. This criteria is not supported by science. Furthermore, how could anyone argue that driving an automobile, as an untrained amateur, for any number of years, prepares someone for the rigors of driving a tractor trailer? That’s just silly.
Do we support the notion of allowing younger entrants into the industry? Absolutely. Of course, they’ll need professional outcome-based education and training. I’m not talking about the extraordinary waste of time and money spent today preparing people to pass the CDL exam. The majority of the subject matter covered is unrelated to the actual demands of the job. Tractor trailer operators need meaningful education about risk and how to avoid it. They need skills-based training on defensive driving techniques.

I’d bet my retirement that a 18 year old, hired on the basis of predictive characteristics (conscientious, risk-averse and compliant) and then put through a behaviorally-based training protocol, will outperform any “two years Over-The-Road experience” driver so commonly sought today as the holy grail. So yeah, change the rules and let’s put the driver problem behind us.

Driver problem? I said I’d come back to that.  At AvatarFleet, we argue there isn’t driver shortage, but rather a driver problem. If there were a driver shortage, you’d go to the store and find empty shelves. You’d go to the gas station and find empty tanks. And manufacturers would have docks full of finished goods growing old. The laws of supply and demand are alive and well. If there were a legitimate shortage, the industry would pay more. That too is in the Bulk Transportation article. The industry is paying more, but not to the extent that would confirm a driver shortage.

No, we don’t have a driver shortage, we have a driver problem. And, if you’ like to learn how to solve the driver problem at your company, download our ebook on Building Your Driver Brand Statement. 

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