What Truck Drivers Say about “Driver Shortage” & Pay Increases

For the majority, pay has remained flat or has fallen over the past year.

The trucking industry is reverberating with claims that there is a massive driver shortage, that they have trouble recruiting and retaining drivers, and that they have to pay more to recruit and retain them. So here’s what truck drivers are saying.

How much has your salary increased in the past year?

This should be an obvious one. If there is a driver shortage, and if trucking companies have trouble recruiting and retaining drivers, and if they’re fretting about having to pay more to recruit and retain drivers – which would squeeze their profits – then drivers in turn should see this increase in pay.

Turns out, less than a quarter of the truck drivers in the survey experienced pay increases of over 5%. But 59% of the drivers said their pay has remained flat or has even decreased.

The survey was conducted by driving-tests.org, a test preparation service for driver’s licenses. In total, 4,931 truck drivers with commercial driver’s licenses responded. Of them, 2,713 said they had a Class A license; 1,180 had a Class B license; 839 had a Class C license, and 199 had more than one.

In total, 2,925 drivers responded to the question: “How much has your salary increased in the past year?” And this is what they said:

  • 12.4%: “My salary has decreased”
  • 46.5%: No change in pay
  • 16.1%: Pay increased by 0.1% to 5.0%
  • 9.2%: Pay increased 5.1% to 10.0%
  • 5.2%: Pay increased 10.1% to 15%
  • 3.0%: Pay increased 15.1% to 20.0%
  • 7.6%: Pay increased more than 20%.

That about 59% of drivers experienced flat or declining pay last year is peculiar because the industry has been singing a different tune. Trucks.com reported in December: “The shortage of drivers and trucks was so great earlier this year that some carriers temporarily turned away orders.” But Trucks.com adds:

Since the deregulation of the trucking industry in 1980, driver pay has trended lower because of increased competition. Drivers today earn about twice as much as the typical service-sector employee. Before deregulation, it was four times as much, said Kenny Vieth, president of ACT Research.

Deregulation “set off a race to the bottom,” said Todd Spencer, president of the 160,000-member Owner-Operators Independent Trucking Association.

“It’s a perpetual hunt for the least expensive labor and flies in the face of seniority or tenure,” Spencer told Trucks.com.

Some private fleet drivers earn upward of $80,000 a year, and they stay with their companies. For-hire drivers at large motor carriers in 2017 earned around $53,000, according to the ATA’s Driver Compensation Study published in March.

Truckers work 55 to 65 hours a week, compared with 42.8 hours for the average full-time worker, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor bureau pegs trucking at roughly $21 an hour, but the actual rate is lower because the workweek is longer.

So the survey by driving-tests.org asked this question, to which 2,519 truck drivers responded:

Why did you originally choose to become a commercial driver? (Check all that apply)

Not quite a quarter of the respondents said it was money. But about 60% cited a passion for one or the other aspect of the job (responses 2, 3, 5, and 6):

  • 24.3%: I wanted the competitive salary
  • 20.0%: I love operating large vehicles
  • 19.6%: I wanted the freedom and independence
  • 12.0%: I have good people skills
  • 11.0%: I wanted to travel the country
  • 9.5%: I thought commercial driving is cool.
  • 3.6%: I drove trucks in the military.

And then, a dose of reality. 2,022 drivers responded to this question:

What do you dislike most about commercial driving? (choose one)

  • 19.1%: The salary isn’t good enough
  • 18.0%: The job can put a strain on my family
  • 15.7%: GPS tracking or electronic logging restrict my freedom to work as I want.
  • 12.1%: It can be lonely on the road.
  • 10.7%: Other
  • 8.9%: The job comes with too many risks.
  • 8.1%: Self-driving autonomous trucks may decrease demand for commercial drivers.
  • 7.4%: The job can adversely affect my health.

Still, most of them are planning to hang in there. This persistence is in part explained by the reasons most of them became truck drivers in the first place: A passion for various aspects of the job, rather than just money (see the second set of responses). In total, 3,811 drivers responded to this question:

Do you plan to leave the commercial driving industry in the next 3 years?

  • 85.1%: No
  • 10.4% Yes, for another career/opportunity
  • 4.5%: Yes, for retirement

Clearly, if the industry really wanted to attract more drivers and retain them, so that it could quit griping about this massive “driver shortage,” then paying drivers more would be a helpful big step – and some trucking companies have been moving in that direction. But clearly, the profit squeeze it might entail is just not a particularly intriguing option for many other trucking companies. 
 

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  87 comments for “What Truck Drivers Say about “Driver Shortage” & Pay Increases

  1. Gorbachev
    Jan 15, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    I thought most truckers were unionized.That would

    help their pay.I guess not.

    • chillbro
      Jan 15, 2019 at 2:28 pm

      Capital owning elites don’t want free market rules to apply to labour pools. They would rather take short term losses than pay a fair wage. Hunger games style society ensure that there is always desperate people to be exploited so there is no way for labour to effectively fight back even during the best of times.

      It’s cheaper to pay for sponsored content than it is to pay a fair wage.

      • Mike G
        Jan 15, 2019 at 2:54 pm

        We haven’t had “near unlimited immigration”, “open borders” or whatever the propaganda phrase of the day is today, in the US in over a hundred years.

      • IdahoPotato
        Jan 15, 2019 at 3:08 pm

        I love some anti-immigrant agitporn with my daily covfefe with some whipped sanctimony on top.

      • MaryR
        Jan 17, 2019 at 4:14 pm

        My husband was a trucker for almost 40 years. Firm after firm dropped unions after deregulation under “Ronnie” and if drivers tried to bring in the teamsters later, they were fired and blackballed from any other trucking jobs in the area. This started in the 1980’s and continues up to today.

        If drivers worked over 40 hours by early Thursday, the company would cut you from working Friday to keep overtime pay down even though you killed yourself to get the loads delivered in 12 to 16 hour days early in the week.

        The book ‘Sweatshops on Wheels ‘ tells the story and in truth it is a ‘slave’ type job with no worker protection except new restrictions on driver hours. Truckers paid hourly should get overtime after 8.5 hours to avoid the OT rip off.

        Today’s young workers have zero interest in working 12 hours (or more) for rip-off wages, very dangerous work, and general harassment from dispatchers, owners, and warehouse workers. due to our just in time inventory system, while traffic is a nightmare in most big metros. Miss a lot of Holidays at home too.

        None of our relatives would ever work in trucking as they know how bad it really is. It is not worth it. 7th highest fatal injury rate in USA and highest number killed on the job at 918, in 2016. I have zero sympathy for trucking companies as many deserve to lose every last worker.

    • IdahoPotato
      Jan 15, 2019 at 3:25 pm

      The biggest factor in the decline of real income is the loss of bargaining power.

      Only 2% of truck drivers were unionized in 2013. The percentage must be lower now. Teamsters – one of the biggest unions – on their website claims to represent 75000 workers. That includes “truck drivers, dockworkers, mechanics, and office personnel”.

      This is out of an estimated 3.5 million drivers.

      In 1977, 80% of truck drivers were unionized.

      https://www.businessinsider.com/truck-driver-salary-decrease-pay-cut-2018-9

      • GP
        Jan 16, 2019 at 12:53 pm

        Yeah, let’s bring back those trucking regulations. Taxi medallions have been working out so well

        I am a bit disappointed by the source of this article – isn’t the wage growth tracked by Bureau of Labor Statistics?

    • dw
      Jan 19, 2019 at 7:42 pm

      Less than 5 % drivers are union. Deregulation ended most unions in the 1970s

  2. 2banana
    Jan 15, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    Seen the same arguments for American Engineers for the last 25 years.

    What they really mean to say is “We want really smart people who can’t do simple supply/demand math…”

    And the major reason why we have a corrupt and abused H1B Visa program.

    • Rvette454
      Jan 15, 2019 at 3:34 pm

      It takes more then Democrats and unions to destroy fair labor and standards. There will always be bottom feeders in the industry who admonish those who they don’t like. L
      The last stat I researched said a majority of drivers file for bankruptcy stating medical bills as the major contributor. Unions support affordable healthcare plans and offer them.

      • roddy6667
        Jan 15, 2019 at 8:47 pm

        Unions are parasites. People think that because you see them in highly paid situations, they are the cause of it. No. They were drawn to the big dollars. When the pay gets low, the unions will go away.
        I know a guy who was a Teamster warehouse worker for a supermarket chain. He was making more than a young lawyer. Not bad for somebody with no high school diploma. They went on strike one more time for even more ridiculous wages and benefits. The company closed the warehouse, and turned the operation over to a non-union outfit from out of state. They got too greedy.

      • Robert Goddard
        Jan 15, 2019 at 10:18 pm

        My family owned a short haul trucking company (no union… 10 to 20 trucks) during the 70s and 80s.

        Union truck drivers shot at our trucks when they were striking. So yeah, unions suck. I don’t want to hear otherwise.

        • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit
          Jan 15, 2019 at 11:03 pm

          Unions created the modern middle-class.

        • BridgetownBeast
          Jan 17, 2019 at 10:38 am

          Your family undermined the union drivers’ fight to retain a living wage and benefits and the union drivers didn’t like it. Not to put too fine a point on it but it’s basically activities like that which paved the way to the degradation of the standard of living that we’re now seeing in this country. It’s called scabbing and it’s tremendously short sighted.

    • rhodium
      Jan 15, 2019 at 4:45 pm

      Don’t get me started on this shortage bs. It seems like a game that almost all industries are playing these days. In construction for instance they talk a good game about labor shortages, especially for skilled trades. It’s somewhat true, but you’d think that would translate to a bidding war for workers. Nope not really, despite tons of construction here in Colorado after many years of complete stagnation, wage gains have been modest and I don’t believe the government wage data is accurate at all. In fact I believe it’s been goal-seeked to just barely keep up with inflation since they can tell people hey at least you’re not getting poorer.

  3. Mike G
    Jan 15, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    The default move for any industry is to complain about a “labor shortage” instead of raising pay to attract more people; the airlines have been running this game for decades. In management’s mind, “market forces” can only ever be an excuse to cut pay and conditions, not raise them.

    • Ed
      Jan 15, 2019 at 4:30 pm

      Yes, I don’t really believe the current data which says there are way more than 1 job for every 1 applicant.

      I suspect some of the posted jobs are not people who are needed, just a listing in case the perfect candidate shows up (and then, in some cases, they might even get rid of the current imperfect occupant of said job).

      • Jan 16, 2019 at 12:27 pm

        There are a lot of fake job listings out there. My brother and mother both experienced situations where their employers created a new job title for them, then had to go through the process of competitive interviews when they knew who was getting the job. In my brothers situation they even cancelled the job and sent him to another department instead.

        Some places, like Antelope Valley Hospital, have chronic shortages of nurses even with plenty of applicants because they are trying to skirt the regulations on how many nurses they are supposed to hire in order to reduce labor costs.

        In addition to these beaurocratic reasons to waste job seekers’ time, there’s the jobs that remain listed on sites long after they’re filled.

        Lastly, the modern hiring process is extremely one-sided and opaque. Potential employees must carefully tailor they’re resumes with no indication whether there are 50 jobs with 20 applicants or 1 job with 10,000 applicants. Job seekers are stuck using word of mouth through social networking in order to get a hot tip on which jobs the employers are actually struggling to fill.

        • GolferDave
          Jan 17, 2019 at 12:04 pm

          I’ve always heard that 85% of jobs are filled through word-of-mouth, particularly at the low end of the pay scale. Private corporations who were hiring used to pay big bucks for splashy ads in the local papers, more as corporate hubris than effective hiring practices. Just like governments who are required to solicit bids write the specifications to apply to a bidder who has already been pre hired.

    • Ethan in NoVA
      Jan 16, 2019 at 1:18 pm

      A lot of people are probably comfortable where they work or unwilling to switch jobs to get a pay increase. Their employer isn’t going to offer one on a whim, so wage stagnation. If they were to take the risk of switching employers they could earn more?

      In that survey quite a few seemed to have gotten pretty big pay bumps. I bet they switched employers.

  4. Citizen AllenM
    Jan 15, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    LoL, pay increases? Get some more FOBs!!!!

    Screw paying lazy American workers more, we can get people from Well Salvador, Benin, India, etc.

    Benvinidos a Estados Uneedus.

    Love the union comments, Fox nudes strikes again.

    WB has even stated the obvious, and no revolution started.

  5. g
    Jan 15, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    An owner operator on average makes 3 times what top pay corporate drivers make and the smarter one make 4 times the top pay of corporate drivers.

    Small company owners make multiples better pay than corporate America.

    Its not rocket science.

    • Hey Drivet
      Jan 17, 2019 at 1:55 am

      BS

      I bought my first truck in 1974. Very few owner- operators make anywhere near what a good company driver does. Large private fleets like Wal Mart, Safeway, any fuel hauler, any hazmat driver is at or near $100K annual, plus all the benefits. General freight O-O’s probably average half that on the bottom line of their Schedule C, although two thirds of them probably lie about it.I

      Two other quick, possibly contradictory points-

      1. According to Google, half the commercial drivers in California are immigrants. I don’t care if they came here legally or illegally, how can you effectively double the available supply of a given good or service without the price decreasing?

      2. What there is definitely a shortage of is QUALITY drivers. If you can pass a drug test, manage your time effectively, deal with the inevitable issues involving weather, customers and small mechanical problems you can do well in this industry. It seems to me that the shortage of people with these qualifications is so severe that the mega carriers have re-engineered their entire systems so as to allow them to operate with idiots for drivers. Instead of insisting on some basic qualifications and training as a prerequisite for a CDL we will give one to almost anybody, the we try to achieve safety by micromanaging their every activity (ELD’s) which only causes those of us who are capable of managing ourselves to leave the industry. Stupidity begets stupidity in the long race to the bottom.

      • electronhauler
        Jan 19, 2019 at 5:14 pm

        The number of fatalities of truck drivers has halved since 1980, and the total fatalities involving trucks (mostly in passenger cars) has dropped by nearly 40%. Seems that modern truck drivers are less likely to die than their predecessors. (Data from IIHS: https://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/large-trucks/fatalityfacts/large-trucks)

  6. Jan 15, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    With electronic logging they should all be hourly, but the rigs are easy to drive, comfortable. The risks are minimized. I remember going to the docks in Oakland years ago and hiring longshoremen to unload, and they were housewives and college students. Where’s Marlon Brando, I ask? They take the hard part out of the job they take out the part you get paid for doing the hard part.

    • Jdog
      Jan 15, 2019 at 4:52 pm

      Rigs are anything but easy to drive, you aparently have never done it. In addition it is far more dangerous than being a LEO, and they call themselves heros for the risks they take.

      • Top-GUN
        Jan 15, 2019 at 7:35 pm

        Big diesel engine, automatic trans, power steering…
        Exactly what is difficult about driving a big rig…

        • Jdog
          Jan 15, 2019 at 7:51 pm

          Try backing one up for 1/4 mile, driving in city street traffic, going up or down an icy 6% grade, or parallel parking a 40′ trailer.
          If you cannot do all those things competently, you could not even get a license. BTW most rigs are still manual.

        • Jan 16, 2019 at 12:29 pm

          You’re right I think, electronic logging is the final bit of risk mediation. The system links interstate, you couldn’t cheat on hours if you wanted too. They also have drug testing. All of it means that the driver who plays by the rules isn’t competing with a gypo. The teamsters may not be as mighty as they were but the system tends to “unionize” the rules.

      • roddy6667
        Jan 15, 2019 at 8:50 pm

        Truck driving is always on near the top of the list of Ten Most Dangerous Jobs.
        Cop is not even ON the list.They are uniformed drama queens.

  7. MF
    Jan 15, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    4.5% for retirement seemed low to me … until I check BLS’s comments on older workers:

    “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 40 percent of people ages 55 and older were working or actively looking for work in 2014. That number, known as a labor force participation rate, is expected to increase fastest for the oldest segments of the population—most notably, people ages 65 to 74 and 75 and older—through 2024. In contrast, participation rates for most other age groups in the labor force aren’t projected to change much over the 2014–24 decade.”

    Seems as though a lot of retirement strategies are to keep working.

    source: https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2017/article/older-workers.htm

    • Rvette454
      Jan 15, 2019 at 3:39 pm

      Not to be to far off topic, but the uncertainty of income keeps people working well into those “golden years” of retirement, and then again we are the baby boomers.

  8. dave jr
    Jan 15, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    As I recall, the so called “driver shortage” wasn’t really an issue until drug testing was mandated by the FMCSA shortly after deregulation. Any industry whose employees must undergo pre-employment, random and post accident testing is going to have a shortage. I’m not saying that testing is a bad thing or the only reason. But it is a big one and it wasn’t mentioned in the article.

    • roddy6667
      Jan 15, 2019 at 8:56 pm

      I took a physical in 1985. It was about the most rudimentary exam I have ever had. Now they check for drugs and are quite picky about physical ailments. A lot of older drivers were unemployed when the laws changed.
      The drug testing also tests for alcohol. I was talking to a CT Transit bus driver once. He said that it is common for a driver who starts his route at 6:00 AM to see a supervisor’s SUV sitting at one of his first stops with another driver. You swap drivers and go to a walk-in clinic and get drug tested. If you were out drinking the night before, you will have enough alcohol in your system to get fired and lose any commercial license forever. A lot of drivers were weeded out this way.

    • Mike G
      Jan 15, 2019 at 8:59 pm

      I have a relative who is a hazmat trucker. He gets plenty of work driving loads into Canada because they ban drivers who don’t have clean criminal and driving records, which apparently is most of his peers.

      • OSP
        Jan 15, 2019 at 10:19 pm

        Drivers holding Class A w/ Hazmat and tanker endorsements are generally the highest paid. They must have specialized training in the chemicals, etc. they load, transport and unload. Not easy work, btw.

        Next would be Hazmat dry van. Somewhat less specialized training required. Usually do not have to load or unload the cargo (exception being city P&D drivers).

        Hazardous Waste haulers are a unique niche. Some of these guys are knocking down 85-100K/yr driving a company truck.

      • Jan 16, 2019 at 12:39 pm

        Very difficult to keep your ticket clean. You take a job with a lesser company, they tend to push your hours, under maintain the equipment and overload you every chance they get. Without a clean record you are never going to get that good job, and most drivers don’t want to sit around waiting for a call.

  9. Chris
    Jan 15, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    I’m curious about the methodology, respondent selection and questions in the poll.

    If I’ve learned one thing in my journey to adulthood, it’s never to accept “poll results” at face value.

    • Jan 15, 2019 at 3:59 pm

      From the company that conducted the survey:

      “As for the methodology – the survey was given to users of our CDL tests. The first question “Which class of CDL do you currently hold?” served as a screening question for Commercial Drivers and aspiring drivers. Those that answered “none” were not given the rest of the test. Therefore, only current A, B, and C-level CDL drivers answered the rest of the test.”

      • Hey Driver
        Jan 18, 2019 at 3:32 pm

        Long term experienced professional drivers are far less likely to use some online test prep. I just renewed my license – Class A, doubles-triples, tanker and hazmat. The only studying I did was a quick glance through the hazmat section of the DMV book while I waited in line.

        I’m skeptical of their sample pool.

  10. 2banana
    Jan 15, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    From the right wing New York Times:

    “There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country and we also admit over a million permanent legal immigrants each year, leading to enormous implications for the U.S. labor market.

    Once given work authorization, illegal immigrants can compete for better-paying jobs now unavailable to them because they require background checks and valid Social Security numbers — as security guards, interstate truckers, and public sector employees…”

    https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/01/06/do-immigrants-take-jobs-from-american-born-workers/unskilled-workers-lose-out-to-immigrants

  11. Charles Norton
    Jan 15, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    Idaho Potato and others may benefit from some easily obtainable facts. According to Pew Research the immigrant story is that:-
    ‘The U.S. foreign-born population reached a record 43.7 million in 2016. Since 1965, when U.S. immigration laws replaced a national quota system, the number of immigrants living in the U.S. has more than quadrupled. Immigrants today account for 13.5% of the U.S. population, nearly triple the share (4.7%) in 1970.
    Most immigrants (76%) are in the country legally, while a quarter are unauthorized, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on census data adjusted for undercount. ‘
    So that makes 10.7million unauthorised’.
    Your definition of ‘agitporn’ seems to be any facts you dislike.

    • IdahoPotato
      Jan 15, 2019 at 4:35 pm

      There are millions of illegal immigrants in the country. That is a fact.

      Citing it repeatedly becomes agitporn when people conveniently fail to talk about the consistent effort by employers to undermine any legislation to sanction those who EMPLOY illegal immigrants. Who is holding a gun to anyone’s head to employ these people? How many arrests have you read about of people who employ illegal immigrants?

      A few years after Pres. Reagan gave amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) introduced this Bill to remove all constraints on employers employing illegal immigrants:

      https://www.congress.gov/bill/102nd-congress/senate-bill/1734/text

      The bill was defeated amid strong opposition from Democrats , mainly Rep. Coretta Scott King.

      History and context help to discriminate between facts and partisan propaganda.

      When ICE goes after those who employ illegal immigrants, I’ll pay attention. Nothing is stopping them.

      • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit
        Jan 15, 2019 at 8:08 pm

        I agree 100% with the spud here.

      • Mike G
        Jan 15, 2019 at 9:05 pm

        It’ll be a frosty day in hell before you see a Republican administration throwing farmers in prison. Suggest this and you’ll find that suddenly it’s not such a dire problem after all.

    • Gian
      Jan 15, 2019 at 9:51 pm
    • Spider Veloce
      Jan 16, 2019 at 1:20 pm

      Latest report on illegal more accurately put their numbers at 22 million,not 11.

  12. Elmerfud
    Jan 15, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    ICE deported 95,000 illegals from the interior of the USA last year. In Obama’s first three years as president the number was over 200,000 annually. In total, 2.5 million illegals were bounced during his presidency gaining him the nickname “The Great Expeller.” Dems do not have any platform of near unlimited immigration – a fantasy that only exists in Trump’s brain and, more importantly, at FOX, Rush and intelligence inputs Trump relies on.

  13. Clete
    Jan 15, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    Do modern trucks (the big rigs) have automatic transmissions now? Or do the drivers still have to work a clutch through traffic jams and city driving?

    It seems like auto trannies would be a lot easier to handle than a 18-speed or whatever, particularly after years of driving. Left-knee replacements would take you off the road for a long time.

    Thanks to any who can answer.

    • RD Blakeslee
      Jan 15, 2019 at 5:47 pm

      The DuckDuckGo search engine (or Google, if you must) lists comprehensive answers to the question: “Do 18 wheelers have automatic transmissions?”

    • Marcus
      Jan 15, 2019 at 5:52 pm

      Per my bros. who are diesel mechanics, automatics are becoming prevalent at every level of hauler.

    • Endeavor
      Jan 15, 2019 at 6:06 pm

      Yes and my truck driver friend loves the new lane integrity feature on the newest rigs,

      • Clete
        Jan 15, 2019 at 9:42 pm

        Thanks, Marcus & Endeavor.

    • Jan 15, 2019 at 9:43 pm

      Not only automatic transmissions but automatic brakes (activated in emergencies) and other self-driving features. High-tech has moved into trucking years ago, for better or worse.

      • DUGETRUX
        Jan 16, 2019 at 11:14 am

        Automatic brakes??? 1st you get a truck that cant do the speed limit. and on the e- way when pissed off 4 wheelers go zoomin around you and cut in front it activates your “auto matic brakes” next thing that happens you get a call from dispatch asking why you had a “severe braking incident” if that happens 3 times you have to go thru some saftey course on your own time. Now ask why is there a driver shortage???

      • kam
        Jan 16, 2019 at 6:05 pm

        City trucks tend to be automatic, highway trucks tend not to be. Automatic transmissions, like their cousins in cars, consume more fuel than otherwise would be the case with a competent driver.
        There is far more torque from piston to the rubber directly coupled versus the slippage of a torque converter which goes with an automatic transmission.

        • Jan 16, 2019 at 8:17 pm

          Kam,

          In terms of cars… Modern automatic transmissions in cars have a torque converter lock-up clutch that closes the clutch completely and fairly quickly. These transmissions also have a manual shift options (without clutch pedal), so you can shift manually through all 7 or 10 (or however many) speeds when you feel like doing something. You just don’t have to push a clutch pedal with your foot (there is no clutch pedal). The time when the torque converter is engaged between gears is relatively short before the clutch locks up.

          I’ve never driven a car with a 10-speed automatic transmission with lock-up clutch, but I hear they’re really sweet.

    • DUGETRUX
      Jan 18, 2019 at 12:56 am

      Auto trans are kool in L.A. traffic but for the most part manual transmissions are pre fered(at least by me) on the open road. The reason being, you have to set up for turns and things so you have to think about what your going to do next. With and Auto you tend not to think about the fact your driving a 40 ton truck and as a result you might find yourself going into a turn to quickly. or something similar. also an Auto trans is controlled by a computer and sometimes you dont always get what you the driver wants. In my case my equipment will do what I tell it when I tell it… Ill settle for nothing less

  14. Jdog
    Jan 15, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    What will cure this is more immigration… After all the laws of supply and demand do not apply to labor.

  15. Old Engineer
    Jan 15, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    Two things have contributed to the alleged shortage of drivers: the increase in e-tail and the new rules that enforced driving/rest times through GPS and electronic monitoring. The new rules created an instant need for more trucks and drivers that was probably the main cause of the surge in truck orders earlier this year. In order to deliver internet purchases in a timely fashion more truck and drivers were needed since the existing base had its throughput significantly reduced. And truck drivers have always worked on slim margins, especially the ones who own their own tractors. So the new rules hurt both the drivers and industry. With time it will work itself out.
    In the short term rates may have to go up to the point where the drivers can support themselves. But if there is really a long term need, people will fill the slots. Mostly the alleged driver deficit is just whining from clueless owners trying to wring ever more money out of a shrinking population that can afford to buy things.

  16. RW
    Jan 15, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    As the owner of a trucking company who has Peterbilt trucks with 18speed manual transmissions in all of my trucks due to the computer problems with automatic trans and the amount of weight we carry we plan on no changes .
    Last year we gave 10% pay increases and provide 100% medical and dental and profit sharing to the employee, most of my drivers are 50 years old plus, I see no new blood coming into our industry for many reasons. Seems like today many younger workers do not want to get dirty, long hours, time away from home and so on. Today’s drivers are not the same as 20 years ago with many foreigners as drivers who speak little to no English, it is by no means an easy business for the owners or the drivers.

    • Paulo
      Jan 15, 2019 at 7:40 pm

      What impresses the hell out of me is watching a driver halt traffic in prep to back into a store loading bay. The other drivers are often idiots, not giving the rig driver enough room and showing their impatience for the brief delay. The truck drivers calmly use their mirrors and back into a bay with little to no clearance….1st time/first try. Mirrors and skill, no cameras or radar, all done under pressure. I watch them, and they use mirrors, no electronic assists.

      Then follow the impatient car drivers and see them barely able to park in the store lot, straight shot in and white lines to keep straight

      Truck drivers deserve a good respectable wage for just doing their everyday job. Add to that weather problems, scheduling issues, and having to sit for long hours, hats off to them.

      • RD Blakeslee
        Jan 15, 2019 at 8:35 pm

        “… the impatient car drivers…” are not everywhere, Paulo.

        Here in our small town we have a stretch of two-lane road at one end of town where there are two ninety -degree corners about 200 feet apart.

        We all know to stop short of the bends when an 18 wheeler needs to get through. All of the two lanes are needed. A friendly wave is often exchanged …

        • Prairies
          Jan 16, 2019 at 9:55 am

          I have witnessed cars under semi trailers because they cut into the turning lane beside a big rig, while it is trying to make a wide turn. Not every driver is as considerate of their surroundings, not everyone is a bad driver but every town has at least one bad driver.

    • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit
      Jan 15, 2019 at 8:10 pm

      I don’t have the eyesight to pass the truck drivers’ license test nor is my back strong enough to cope with loading and unloading a 40-foot trailer (had an accident years back and it’s never been the same) or I’d be eager to jump into a truck and give it a try. I have 8 years to count down until I can retire and why not spend them seeing the USA?

      • Ethan in NoVA
        Jan 16, 2019 at 1:27 pm

        Not all trucks need you to unload them. I’m sure there are driving jobs where you drop trailer. Dump trucks, etc.

        Eyesight thing — no idea. Glasses/lasik?

  17. Pasha
    Jan 15, 2019 at 6:34 pm

    When they bring out a reality based tv show about corporate truck drivers, you know they are probably overpaid. Until then, companies need to pay drivers more.

  18. safe as milk
    Jan 15, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    every time i read that there is a labor shortage, i think that means the cheapskates don’t want to pay a real wage. i know it’s true in my industry – i’m a broadcast video editor. hourly pay hasn’t risen in 20 years or more and everything is freelance now. the funny thing is that because the employers no longer invest in training their non-existent staff employees, those of us experienced old timers who are still around have some semblance of job security but it often means working two part-time jobs so that neither company has to offer us health insurance.

  19. Unamused
    Jan 15, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    =>Mostly the alleged driver deficit is just whining from clueless owners

    A brief history of corporate whining:

    1842: “If workers can legally strike, no business will be able to survive!”

    1887: “Give blacks an entire dollar for a day’s labor? Might as well burn my business to the ground!”

    1912: “Worker deaths are tragic, but anti-sweatshop laws would be the death of industry in America!”

    1915: “When workers can’t be fired for joining a union, how can anyone stay in business?”

    1924: “Banning child labor would destroy the economy.”

    1938: “We can’t have a forty-hour work week, because if we do there’ll be no employers left to hire anyone!”

    1964: “Equal pay for blacks and women? Business can’t stay afloat if federal regulations strangle us.”

    1970: “Health and safety laws are a formula for massive permanent unemployment.”

    There are many more, and worse, in many languages, all extensively documented in newpaper opinions, boardroom minutes, congressional testimony, broadcast media, corporate newsletters, and political speeches.

    Properly framed and repeated, it is well-understood that public relations can reliably persuade people who work for a living to vote themselves into destitution, support wars that put millions of them in caskets, and generally get them chasing their own tails. The clouded mind sees nothing. The best-known campaigns of Edward Bernays include a 1929 effort to promote female smoking by branding cigarettes as feminist “Torches of Freedom” and his work for the United Fruit Company in connection with the US-sponsored overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Guatemala in 1954.

    • Remy Lebeau
      Jan 15, 2019 at 8:10 pm

      One of the better post I have seen in some time. Thanks Unamused

  20. mch
    Jan 15, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    I am curious about this. I thought that a good majority of truckers are independent contractors. But I assume there is also a good number working for companies like Walmart, Amazon, Fedex, etc. Would be curious to see the breakdown here.

    But I am sure that these companies are hiring contractors whenever possible to minimize their cost, and so they don’t have to worry about firing workers when the economic downturn arrives.

    I’m also betting most of them can’t wait for self driving long haul trucks to arrive.

  21. Jdog
    Jan 15, 2019 at 8:04 pm

    The reason there are shortages in certain fields is that some of these jobs do not pay enough to justify what it takes to do them. Commercial drivers are just one example. You need clearance from Homeland Security, you have to take a physical every two years, you are treated differently by the legal system, automatic points for infractions, higher insurance rates, are all things on top of the regular job difficulties that drive people out of the buisness. Perhaps it is designed that way to justify automated trucks.

    • wkevinw
      Jan 16, 2019 at 11:40 am

      A lot of truth to that.

      In the past, even up to the auto industry labor issues (early 20th century), the “safety net” was going back to the family agricultural business (or similar). Ford increased salaries partially to keep people from escaping low paying, boring jobs (back to the farm).

      Sorry, but I am like a parrot when it comes to “shortages”. I say: if there is a true shortage, prices (pay) will rise. (“supply and demand is mediated by price”).

      The truth is in the price- there is a big supply of certain kinds of labor regardless of what the employers or media claim.

  22. Mary
    Jan 15, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    Pieces like this are the reason I check out Wolf Street every day. I learned a lot today, both from the column and smart comments. (I look forward to Idaho Potato and Paulo almost as much as I look forward to Wolf.)

    • HowNow
      Jan 16, 2019 at 7:11 am

      Add Unamused to that list.

  23. kwc
    Jan 15, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    See recent article about driverless trucks in Arizona on I-10 and earlier article about driverless trucks on I-10 in California. I’m glad I don’t travel that highway often. The thought of 70,000 lb trucks without drivers is unsettling to say the least. https://www.abc15.com/news/state/self-driving-semi-trucks-being-tested-on-arizona-roads, https://www.wired.com/story/embark-self-driving-truck-deliveries/

    • Jan 17, 2019 at 1:51 pm

      They only have to drive about half as fast, because they never have to stop

  24. Silly Me
    Jan 16, 2019 at 6:05 am

    Percentages don’t mean much without a point of reference. I am quite certain that various changes in wages affected different levels of income and weekly hours.

    The problem with unions is that the American worker’s wages are pushed to the lowest possible point, rendering
    the collection of sufficient dues impossible, thus not allowing for financially stable and powerful unions. Lack of transparency and ridiculous compensation for Union leaders would kill even otherwise financially viable unions…

    • lenert
      Jan 16, 2019 at 11:56 am

      I’d have to check but I doubt anyone has paid dues to PATCO in a while. It be ironic if a controllers’ strike got McConnell to put appropriations on the floor.

  25. gunther
    Jan 16, 2019 at 6:45 am

    Injecting insulin for diabetes and the truck license is gone in Canada.
    With the increase in diabetes the pool of possible drivers shrinks.

  26. Glenn Mercer
    Jan 16, 2019 at 8:13 am

    Rome is the Eternal City and driver shortage is the Eternal Problem. From “The Traffic World,” December 12, 1914: “Practically every truck manufacturer and nearly all employers complain of the great difficulty of securing drivers who are competent. …. They are agreed that the profit or loss from truck transportation is largely dependent upon the drivers, and yet a majority of truck owners will hire the men who will work cheapest…”

  27. Bernie
    Jan 16, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    I like to drive. Good earner. Drug testing knocks out a lot of potential drivers. These companies abuse the drivers so they need to think smart. I wear a synthetic urine belt at all times in case of an accident or company testing. Twelve years driving in the NW and sometimes hazmat, twelve years smoking (after hours only!) and I pass every time. Company policy says no riders but I’ll take one at a truck stop if the terms are understood. Always carry three empty gatoraid bottles. There’s ways around the system and every experienced driver knows it. Most won’t risk it but I like the challenge.

  28. NotBuying
    Jan 16, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    25% of drivers saw pay raises greater than 5% though, that’s pretty good if you ask me.

    • Pastor
      Jan 21, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      Yes 5% sounds nice, unless you’re making $15 an hour. Wow!, thats an extra 75 cents oer hour! Long hours and very low pay. Our young people today are a little smarter than that

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