BOB CONFER: How can we help alleviate the truck driver shortage | Opinion

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final column in a three-part series on the truck driver shortage in the United States.

We treat truck drivers like dirt.

By “we” I mean those of us who are not part of the industry… business, government, citizens. It’s not just the trucking companies that have made life difficult for truckers. In our own way, we contribute daily to driver frustration and the resulting difficulty in recruiting and retaining talent for this incredibly important role in our economy.

It starts with businesses.

Talk to any trucker. Each of them have horror stories about the shipping and receiving services that mistreated them. Biggest problem: They don’t value drivers’ time.

Consider a large retail customer of Confer Plastics that we had to correct earlier this year. The driver was over an hour late for his appointment. His punishment? He had to wait two days for his trailer to be loaded.

Think about it. The man had places to be: On the road so he could have another load and more income; at home with the family. But, instead, a warehouse worker with a divine complex felt it best to teach him a lesson. At two days, this story is extreme, but keeping drivers waiting half a day, or even a whole day, is a common occurrence everywhere.

There are also many companies that do not value driver comfort. Throughout the pandemic, there have been numerous reports of delivery drivers not being able to use the restroom at their destination because they could be carrying Covid. Female drivers in Canada made the news after bringing this to light because they were dehumanized; many were invited to squat behind their trucks. As they have rightly claimed, such abuse – waiting and then being denied access – could lead to health problems like kidney problems and urinary tract infections.

It is not too much to ask businesses and small businesses to recognize that drivers’ time is precious, as are the drivers themselves. Understand that they too have needs and wants. Recognize that they also meet deadlines (their time is money just like yours). Provide them with a way to relieve themselves (even if they have to invest in an outbuilding rental due to Covid protocols). Treat them to creature comforts (some places have truck lounges) and give a simple “thank you” (a gift card to a truck stop restaurant means a lot).

This simple understanding must be undertaken by the government because it too devalues ​​the truckers.

The proof is in the pudding with the only infrastructure bill. You would think that the truckers – the people whose “office” is our infrastructure – would have seen a little more respect with procedures.

While the infrastructure bill was fleshed out, the Senate version included a provision that the minimum insurance coverage should be increased from $ 750,000 to $ 2 million. Currently, insurance will cost between $ 9,000 and $ 16,000 for a licensed owner-operator (not an operator leased to a carrier). Most readers of this document will know someone in their community who has their own platform, and they know the family lives on a small scale because money is tight in trucking. It would have been even more so if the House of Representatives had not removed this requirement.

This same bill, as passed by both houses, failed to properly address a major problem for drivers: parking. Truckers need safe, free places to park and rest when their hours of service are exhausted. Most in fact give up real working time in order to find such places, which only adds to the backlog. One study found that drivers use about 8 hours of their allotted 11 hours, then stop to park. There are too few rest areas, public or private, with or without amenities. An amendment from Rep. Mike Bost of Illinois would have allocated $ 1 billion (just 0.08% of the $ 1.2 trillion package) for parking. It was shut down and language was incorporated, without funding, that simply said states should think about how to resolve the parking crisis.

Then again, a government represents the people it serves. As citizens, we make life a little difficult, if not dangerous, for drivers.

During my 40 minute afternoon commute, I see more and more distracted drivers. On the police scanner, I hear about an increasing number of accidents in good weather. Truckers need to share the roads with these people and hope they don’t lose their livelihood or their lives in the process. Yet the false narrative remains that it is the trucks that are dangerous. We need to be better behind the wheel.

If there’s anything this series has taught us – if there’s anything the supply chain crisis has taught us – it’s that we all need to treat truck drivers better if we are to. making sure we can get the products we want, grocery store shelves and warehouses are full, and we get the energy we need for our homes and workplaces. We need to make this career attractive, secure and dynamic. Without truckers, our economy is literally at a standstill.

Bob Confer of Gasport is President of Confer Plastics Inc. Email him at [email protected]

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