Truckers are crucial to our national supply chain and the economy, yet issues regarding increasing driver turnover rates have long been unaddressed. Truckers used to earn middle class wages, had union representation, benefits, and more control of their hours.
Deregulation in the 1970s reduced the number of unions. Employers, pressured to offer cheaper services, squeezed truckers’ wages, forcing drivers to work longer hours to make up for lower pay. And drivers generally are not paid for the time they wait for their trucks to be loaded or unloaded.
Our long-haul truckers are some of the most closely monitored in the world. Cameras and sensors monitor the road, the brakes and the driver’s eye movements.
While sensors can contribute to driver safety, driver fatigue continues to be a fundamental problem. Sensors cannot improve driver safety when declining work conditions increase fatigue and loss of focus. It’s no surprise truck driver turnover is incredibly high: 91% in 2019.
Under the Biden Administration, the departments of Transportation and Labor launched an effort to support and expand access to quality driving jobs. The departments are accelerating the expansion of registered apprenticeship programs for drivers to put more skilled, safe drivers on the road.
They have taken steps to address pandemic-driven delays in getting a commercial driver’s license; to curb the proliferation of low-quality training resulting in less qualified drivers who end up in debt or being exploited; and to expanding more seamless paths for veterans and under-represented communities, such as women, to access good driving jobs.
Margaret S. Beekman