Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Photo: Mike Murchison
On the Road with Mike MurchisonTrucking

Do you really need that delivery TODAY? Consumerism, friction and Trucking

The yellow line on the road is there to remind you that if you cross it…. you’ve gone too far. Photo: “Somewhere down the line,” Mike Murchison

by Mike Murchison


The battle cry I hear often these days is something to the effect that “I can’t find any Drivers” or “there’s a Driver shortage.”

Or worse: “Nobody wants to work. Government handouts took the incentive away.” If you talk to a cross section of people from any employment sector the battle cry is similar. Too many empty jobs, and not enough workers.

You could speculate until the cows come home as to why, and you’ll get 10 different theories.

One perspective which comes from myself is arrived at by amassing 30 plus years out here on the highway goes like this:

Missed birthdays, anniversaries special occasions, kids growing up too fast, missed Doctor’s appointments, missed community and church involvement. 

Furthermore: Driving in weather no one in which their right mind would drive. Traffic jams in major cities that go on for hours. Shippers and Receivers who are frantic for a pickup or delivery yet don’t want to see you when you arrive. Customers who will not hesitate to levy a late fine on you if they can get away with it.

It’s not all bad. Trucking has its good points. You meet people like yourself: slugging away at the job. You see country, mostly through the windshield. No doubt if you’re reliable, safe and dependable, you’ll always have a job.

But the question as to why the shortage remains. Maybe our kids witnessed the sacrifices we went through and the time away from home and have decided they wouldn’t touch this way of life with a 10 foot pole.

Maybe they placed a higher value on themselves and their time and figured out that the input/ output ratio just doesn’t add up.

You can hear many Drivers who’ve been around say that “Kids these days are lazy. Got no work ethic.” Maybe that’s the case with some, but surely not all. Plain and simple. many just don’t want to get into or stay in this business. And that’s fair.

I often look at the habits of consumers when the Driver shortage question comes up.

How much stuff do people need? Why do they need it in three days? Our consumer habits have a direct affect on trucking, the size of fleets, trailers. Freight movement, fuel consumption and manpower.

If we stuck to the basic necessities like groceries, clothing, and auto parts per say. And scaled back the compulsive impulsive purchases that seem to have overtaken consumers. Would we have a Driver shortage then? I would argue that we wouldn’t.

Would there be a need for so many warehouse workers to handle those purchases that are not really needed ASAP? Here again I would argue that there wouldn’t be a need.

In all fairness to entrepreneurs, business owners and those who support a free market’ environment. The Driver shortage as well as the labour shortage is a direct result of factors such as consumer spending habits where the “want” overrides the “need.” Where the two-week delivery is pushed aside by the “give it to me now” immediate gratification mindset

Mind you. the fact that we are bombarded constantly by every form of media.

Telling us about every gadget and thingamajig and why you need it…and need it now.

Fire up the assembly line, call the workers, load the trucks, find the Drivers.

The supply chain system is intricate and runs on two things: Inventory and logistics. All for the benefit of the consumer.

When I got into the business, I never saw the highway for 2 years. I had to drive a 5 ton with a 2-speed axle doing city deliveries in traffic, small allies using dollies. Then they moved me up to a tandem where I did the same thing. Then a tandem with a trailer doing the nightshift to grocery warehouses at busting down pallets.

There wasn’t a Driver shortage back then. No. You stood in line. Put your time in and earned your way up to the big rigs.

Two years before I saw the highway. That’s when the learning started.  That was before eBay, Amazon and every other on-line purveyor of “must have” consumer products reared their heads and convinced us we need it.

Companies today will offer mentorship programs. Train you “in house.“. Have you sign contracts committing you to work for them until the cost of training is paid back.

Then. thanks to pressure on the drive train manufacturers, you get put into a truck with an automatic transmission. Maybe with a Driver/ Trainer and Hot Damn! You on the big road.

Some say the Driver shortage is artificial. Stats can’t be trusted, and they can be manipulated to give certain results. Part of it is that a lot of the “old school boys” are calling it quits and retiring. They made up a big demographic of the Drivers for 35+ years.

There are as many reasons to enter the trucking sector as there are to stay away from it. The determining factor depends on you: you the consumer, and you the one looking for work.

How much stuff do you really need? If you said a lot, then like so many consumers you’ll just keep demanding more, which will put a bigger strain on trucking companies to find Drivers.

The other factor is your work ethic. What you are willing to do. What you are willing to sacrifice and what you are willing to put on the back burner for this industry, and where your priorities lie.

Seems many of us want it all. The good life, lots of stuff, family time and a good steady source of income.

Sadly, there is a trade off. Here’s hoping you find a happy middle ground if you are considering this industry.

The yellow line on the road is there to remind you that if you cross it…. you’ve gone too far. In all you do. Keep it nice and steady right up the middle of your lane.

Roll Easy,