Friday, June 29, 2018

Maybe it's the working conditions?

There's a trucker shortage, the Washington Post reports: 
...As the nation faces a historically low level of unemployment, trucking companies are doing what economists have said firms need to do to attract and retain workers: They’re hiking pay significantly, offering bonuses and even recruiting people they previously wouldn’t have considered. 
But it’s not working. The industry reports a growing labor shortage — 63,000 open positions this year, a number expected to more than double in coming years — that could have wide-ranging impacts on the U.S. economy. 
In interviews with more than 60 trainees, recruiters and people who explored trucking but decided not to take the job, most said they feel that higher pay will help but that the industry’s problems are much deeper than that. 
Trucking remains one of the most dangerous professions in the country. There were more than 1,000 fatalities among motor vehicle operators in 2016, according to the Labor Department, meaning being a commercial driver is nearly eight times as deadly as being a law enforcement officer. 
...Trucking jobs require people to leave their families for weeks at a time and live in a small “cabin” with a hard bed. Divorces are common, veteran drivers say, and their children forget them. A life on the road is often costly and unhealthy. Drivers sit for hours a day in diesel trucks and pull into truck stops that typically serve greasy hot dogs and chili. 
Weight gain and heart disease are common, says Gordon Zellers, an Ohio physician who spends half his time examining truckers and administering drug tests, which increasing numbers of CDL applicants fail. 
As it has trouble recruiting new workers, the industry also is struggling to hold on to drivers. Turnover in the trucking industry has skyrocketed to 94 percent, according to the American Trucking Associations, meaning most drivers at the major trucking companies don’t spend more than a year in their jobs. That reflects a combination of poaching and quitting....
That's some pretty intense turnover. I haven't thought about trucking yet....

The life of a trucker, long story short, seems miserable, especially the part about being away from your family for a month at a time. I was trying to figure out how much I would have to be paid to take a job as a trucker, i.e. the amount of money I would have to make before I would start to get tempted. It was many multiples of the $42k that the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the median trucker makes. (I recognize that number is not the likely wage that a long-haul trucker makes.) 


  1. Truckers used to have do mental work to plan the most efficient route. Today, they're pretty much robots who are micromanaged via GPS, and they have very little discretion over how to do their own jobs. I think this is a common problem with lower-level jobs in modern America - these jobs used to be more enjoyable when they had some autonomy and thinking involved.

    I know a former trucker who liked to do a little unauthorized sightseeing, like visiting the Grand Canyon when he took a load cross-country - a trucker could never get away with this today because of GPS.

    I suspect the money is less of an issue than the complete lack of freedom. In my own career, getting away from micromanagement has been a stronger motivator than raising my salary when it comes to changing jobs.

  2. So, being an expendable, not-well-paid robot without the kinds of connections that tend to make life worth living (wonder what the suicide rate is?) and with not (sufficient) pay. Gee, I wonder why they can't get people to do this again...

    The diet in theory is a solvable problem, perhaps- MREs that don't suck? No need for a microwave. You could do two-person teams, but that won't always be doable (the wrong person on a team could make life hell, or end.) Given the problems of the chemical industry with trains (their effective oligopoly) and the noted problems with getting paid as a result, intermodal transit probably won't work. Maybe intermediate terminals (so that trailers could be exchanged between regions and drivers wouldn't be really long-haul)? Multi-trailer trucks would lower requirements, but are even less safe than regular tractor-trailers.

  3. Well, at least I have an employment option when my advisor runs out of money (Im a 55 yr old post-doc).

  4. I wonder about autonomous vehicles serving as an existential threat to this industry.