Conserving a National Resource
Everyone has an opinion about how to combat the truck driver shortage—from boosting pay and benefits to lowering the age for getting a CDL (see Good Question, page 10) to self-driving trucks. But one valuable weapon you don't hear much about is driver wellness programs. Carriers can implement these programs quickly, and net near immediate benefits that keep drivers fit and healthy, and able to spend time on the highway much longer than they might otherwise have been capable of.
Other solutions, such as self drivers, may be further off than the hype suggests, according to recent news reports. Here's Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.: "I'm not a Luddite and I'm not simply standing in the way of progress. I believe that autonomous or driverless vehicles will be coming. But in the meantime, while we're developing them, they have to be safe."
Self-drive and driver assist accidents, organized labor resistance, insurance and legal concerns, local and federal regulations, and consumer skepticism—especially from baby boomers—all combine to slow walk the race to replace humans in the cab. Safety is the legitimate concern.
Who says? There are several sources. Recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests showed that five driver-assist systems from five manufacturers did not see stopped vehicles and sometimes caused vehicles to crash. That's with a person on board. Consumers also view self-drivers as less safe today compared to 2016, according to a Cox Automotive study.
The concern trend is going the wrong way. If non-Luddites think that self-drivers will assist with the driver shortage anytime soon, disappointment is just around the next bend in the road.
Here's more "bad" news: Inbound Logistics' carrier and 3PL surveys indicate that the economy will keep booming into 2019. Unemployment claims recently fell to a 50-year low, meaning the competition for workers who might consider driving a truck for a living is real tough, and, if the leading indicators are correct, will get tougher. You know the rest: ELD and HoS loss of efficiency, aging out of the driver pool, and limited success in enticing young workers to the profession all constrict capacity. A quick survey of trucker websites shows carrier competition for drivers is off-the-charts crazy.
The article on page 56 details the findings of our carrier survey on driver wellness. Only 48 percent of carrier respondents say they have a driver wellness program in place. A full zero percent of carriers say they started driver wellness initiatives based on their customers' suggestion.
Let's change that zero. Encourage your carriers to start a driver wellness program. Not only can it help combat the driver shortage, but it's also the right thing to do.