Job Creation Need vs. Destruction of Our
Truck Driver Population

by Mike Starling

August 7, 2013

One of the current areas of concern for shippers is the impact on the driver workforce of the new FMCSA’s Hours of Service and Safety rules, which will be implemented on 1 July, 2013. While the primary modes anticipated to be affected are long-haul truckload and LTL, the larger net effect of the rules may be their psychological impact on the truck drivers themselves, especially on their sense of job security. Could these new rules create a shortage of qualified truck drivers?

It is truly ironic in today’s economy, at a time when the federal government claims to be prioritizing job creation, that their regulatory focus is on implementing mountains of regulations that produce the exact opposite results they are intended to.

It’s getting so bad, that anxiety over the federal government’s relentless regulation of the transportation industry under the guise of “safety” has caused many professional drivers to rethink whether they wish to continue in this line of employment. Don’t believe me? Go ask a truck driver!

The new FMCSA’s HOS safety rule’s impact breaks the driver population down this way:

⦁    Safe Drivers

⦁    Unsafe Drivers

How do you think the driver population breaks down in the eyes of the truck drivers? Maybe like this:

⦁    Safe Driver — Nothing to worry about:  Recognizes that thanks to federal regulation he is one of an increasingly scarce —and therefore highly desired — commodity.

⦁    Safe Driver — Fears for Job at hands of FMCSA roadside inspectors. This driver is now a “distracted” driver, thanks to the Government’s efforts to ensure compliance in the name of “safety.”

⦁    Unsafe Driver — Knows if he screws up one more time he’s looking for a new career:  Now becomes even more distracted as result.

⦁    New Driver — Establishing Driving Record. Understands that his career can be ended at any time at the whim of an FMCSA roadside inspector.

However, I would suggest that individual drivers’ thought processes about the impact of the new FMCSA HOS safety rules, and how those individuals view their future as a part of the trucking industry, may look more like this:

⦁    Older Driver, Good Safety Record:  Will go for better paying job where he can find it. Could care less about his contribution to increased driver turnover and deterioration of carrier service performance. Looking out for number one is the name of the game.

⦁    Older Driver, OK Driving Record:  Scared of being banned from driving for life as result of any FMCSA infractions; intends to pursue early retirement to avoid the hassle. Becomes part of the exodus creating the current driver shortage.

⦁    Older Driver, So-so Driving Record:  One who can’t afford to retire, will drive until FMCSA regulations flush him out of the driver pool. Knows he’ll be part of the exodus to the FMCSA’s self-fulfilling driver shortage prophesy.

⦁    Middle-aged Driver, OK Driving Record:  Experiences constant anxiety over FMCSA compliance (i.e., regulation is now making him into a “distracted” driver) searches for safer occupation with lower Federal Government hassle factor. Another contributor to FMCSA’s intentionally created driver shortage as he looks to escape a career under attack by smothering federal regulation.

⦁    Younger Driver, Stars-in-the-Eyes Newbie:  Seeking to establish a driving record and develop a career path for himself while striving to comply with HOS rules. Understands that his continued employment is contingent upon the disposition of a government inspector on any given day.

⦁    People Considering Truck Driving as a Career: Those who take the time to read, research, and understand the tenuous nature of this career alternative, and how it can be ended by the subjective judgement of an inspector they may encounter, or the whim of a regulatory bureaucrat’s next driver “safety” regulation, will chalk this career alternative up as a “no go” and continue their search for a more lucrative and less burdensome job opportunity.

While the above psychological breakdown of how the driver population may be viewing the new HOS safety rules is not necessarily all-inclusive (make up your own version), the point is that while “safety” may be FMCSA’s middle name, there is a big disconnect between the overriding economic need to maintain a viable driver workforce and the esoteric safety goal espoused by the FMCSA.

This disconnected goal gap will continue to widen and deplete the driver workforce as long as bureaucratic zealots who claim the moral high ground in the name of “safety,” no matter the cost to the individual driver’s career, the trucking industry’s needs, or the economic impact on the nation’s GDP, continue their regulatory war on the trucking industry.

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