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ASCM Insights

Not a Trucker Shortage, but a People-Appreciation Shortage

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What could you do with an extra 18 minutes a day? That might not seem like much time, but an MIT expert contended to U.S. lawmakers this week that it was enough to overcome America’s deficit of 80,000 truck drivers.

During a U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure hearing on Wednesday, David Correll, a research scientist at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics, testified that the truck driver shortage is actually a result of a general undervaluing of truckers’ time, which drags down overall efficiency.

Long-haul, full-load truckers drive for an average of just 6.5 hours a day, despite the fact that the federal limit is 11 hours. This is largely due to waiting at warehouses for shipments to load or unload. And often, they’re not compensated for this detention time.

“Our existing warehouses and distribution centers do show the capacity to get trucks loaded and unloaded relatively quickly, but they do so only from around 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays,” Correll said. “America’s current supply chain problems are simply too big to commit only one-third of our weekdays to our best efforts at unclogging them.”

Meanwhile, new legislation hopes to send in reinforcements. The $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law Monday, includes an apprenticeship pilot program for drivers and establishes an advisory board that will work to recruit more women.

Interestingly, sky-high spot rates and spot demand have encouraged more drivers to strike out on their own. Of the 113,000 for-hire trucking applications approved for federal operating authority in the last 16 months, 70% of those were solo operators. For the first time in modern trucking history, more drivers work for fleets with fewer than 100 trucks. However, most of these micro-fleets only support local pickup and delivery, rather than traditional over-the-road services. This fragmented trucking landscape also makes it difficult for third-party logistics providers to match loads to drivers scattered across the country.

Communicating solutions

There are two big takeaways here: First, truckers are justly tired of being underappreciated. And, as noted by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association at the meeting, many feel the pay is simply not worth all the hours away from home. This point is especially critical in a market in which there are plenty of other lucrative opportunities available. Once again, it comes down to valuing our people: Until we resolve to find effective and sometimes very creative ways to prioritize engagement and retention, supply chains will suffer across the board.

Second — and surprisingly — today’s networks are still more siloed than we realize. It’s true that improved coordination between warehouses and truckers would cut detention rates, but correcting today’s overflowing facilities will require all hands on deck. Indeed, this kind of collaborative problem-solving is a key principle of ASCM’s Supply Chain Warehousing Certificate, developed in partnership with Prologis.

Breaking down barriers and fostering teamwork throughout the global supply chain community are at the foundation of all we do here at ASCM. The simple act of talking to each other makes it possible to solve even our toughest challenges. With this in mind, I’m excited to announce the Call for Presentations for the 2022 ASCM CONNECT Annual Conference. Submit your presentation today, and I look forward to connecting with you next year in Chicago.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer at ASCM, the largest nonprofit association for supply chain and the global leader in supply chain organizational transformation and innovation. Prior to this, he was the managing director for the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. His leadership roles have included project management, business process redesign, and individual and organizational alignment. Eshkenazi may be contacted through editorial@ascm.org.

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