Overdrive Magazine

April 2019

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6 | Overdrive | April 2019 Join all our friends at facebook.com/OverdriveTrucking Follow breaking news and commentary at twitter.com/OverdriveUpdate Subscribe to our YouTube channel at youtube.com/OverdriveMag Subscribe to our daily newsletter at OverdriveOnline.com/newsletter-signup Exercise your trucking business mind at " Overdrive's Trucking Pro"group at Linkedin.com Share and comment on photography from around the trucking world at Instagram.com/overdrivetrucking I particularly liked the title of the recent report published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Is the U.S. labor market for truck drivers broken?" As the analysis makes clear, if a legitimate labor shortage has persisted for decades, then something about that market indeed must be weirdly "broken." e report, written by Stephen V. Burks, an economics professor at the University of Minneso- ta Morris, and Kristen Monaco, an associate BLS commissioner, dates driver shortage talk to the late 1980s. e American Trucking Associations "has been arguing [it] systematically since 2005." (ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello comments on the BLS study on page 26.) Insistence "that there is a long-standing short- age of drivers poses a puzzle for empirical labor economics," says the study. "While it is not unusual for any speci c market to be out of equilibrium at a point in time, it is unusual for a market to be consistently out of equilibrium in the direction of a shortage over more than a decade." One explanation would be an unusual cause, such as a "regulatory constraint preventing workers from entering employment or changing occupa- tions," which isn't the case here. e other possibili- ty: "a misapplication of economic terminology." Bingo. So the "shortage" could be described more accurately as one of safe, skilled drivers will- ing to work at the prevailing compensation. Agreeing with truckers, the study concludes that pay could indeed mitigate eets' labor woes: "High- er earnings in truck driving increase occupational entry, especially among individuals who are willing to work longer hours for higher weekly income." Talk as much as you like about how much you need something – a hot steak dinner, a Caribbean vacation, a good truck driver – and moan about all the hurdles in your way. In the case of eets need- ing drivers, those challenges are indeed substantial: barriers to entering the profession, stressful work- ing conditions, highly competitive recruiting, high turnover and better jobs outside of trucking. But those hurdles are industrywide. If a eet wants more drivers, it pays what the market demands, or it does without. It ends up with the number and quality of drivers it deserves at the price it's o ering. Whatever rationale underlies its pay scales, the motor carrier establishment doesn't need to pretend it's the victim of a shortage that for some mysterious reason escapes the balancing forces of the free market year a er year a er year. As the BLS study concludes, "the overall picture is consistent with a market in which labor supply responds to increasing labor demand over time." It's a frustrating, dog-eat-dog market for labor buyers, but broken it is not. Senior Editor Todd Dills' 2016 Overdrive cover story, "Driver shortage alarm," has been one of the rare in-depth critiques of the driver shortage claim. In a similar vein, the Owner-Operator Indepen- dent Drivers Association, which has long argued that the driver shortage is a myth, issued a report this year on the topic. Why driver market isn't really 'broken' By Max Heine, Editorial Director mheine@randallreilly.com, twitter: @maxheine

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