Another day, another story about the woes of our plutocrat rulers. Wages don’t fall fast enough. Regulations protect workers and the environment at the expense of profits. Today’s story concerns the trucking industry. It is, as usual, quite bogus.
The plutocrat revolution against America has many fronts. One of the most important is their ongoing program to hammer down wages and boost profits. One aspect of that is their propaganda campaign to convince the public that there is a labor shortage. Today’s example: “Truck Driver Shortage Analysis 2015" by Bob Costello and Rod Suarez (Chief Economist, Economic Analyst), American Trucking Associations. The opening:
“Over the past 15 years, the trucking industry has periodically struggled with a shortage of truck drivers. The first shortage during this period was documented in a 2005 report. At that time, the shortage was roughly 20,000. During the last recession starting in 2008, the driver shortage was eliminated as industry volumes plummeted, resulting in fewer drivers needed. However, as industry volumes began to recover in 2011, the shortage slowly returned. The driver market continued to tighten and the shortage skyrocketed to 38,000 by 2014.
“There are many reasons for the current driver shortage, but one of the largest factors is the relatively high average age of the existing workforce. The current average driver age in the OTR (Over-the-Road) TL (Truckload) industry is 49.
“…If the current trend holds, the shortage may balloon to almost 175,000 by 2024."
The ATA lists five causes of the “shortage": aging workforce, gender (too few women drivers), drivers have a difficult lifestyle, better jobs available, and too many regulations. The ATA has recommendations, which include government action to boost truckers’ profits. Given the high accident rate of 18-20 year-old young adults, their proposal to lower interstate professional license ages is quite mad. But profits matter more than lives to our owners:
“Lower Driving Age: Interstate driving currently has an age minimum of 21. The 18-20 year old segment has the highest rate of unemployment of any age group, yet this is an entire segment that the industry cannot access (with the exception of local routes, which is generally reserved for seniority). Additionally, potential drivers are likely to have found another career path (that they are already 3 years into) by the time they reach 21."
A more logical theory
Oddly the ATA does not mention the most logical theory. Shortages of goods, labor, or services indicate that in their price. For truckers that means offering wages that drivers consider worthwhile for the services and conditions demanded. As usual in these bogus “skill shortages stories", the truth is easy to find. The trucking industry runs a state-of-the-art worker exploitation model. But there is a shortage of marks to burn.
“‘Mr. Viscelli, who worked as a truck driver for several months while researching his 2016 book, The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream, says upward of 25% of long-haul truck drivers are independent contractors, also known as owner-operators. They are attracted by promises of being their own bosses, but the arrangement often saddles them with unsustainable debt and high expenses, he adds.
“Drivers typically receive training from big trucking companies or schools affiliated with them. Those who become independent contractors sign lease-to-own deals to purchase their vehicles, often with those same companies. But the terms are onerous, and drivers owe so much that they may end up working 70 or 80 hours a week just to pay back what they owe and cover expenses such as fuel and insurance. Drivers are suing some companies that use this model, saying they should be classified as employees rather than contractors.
“Even those working as employees have a hard time making ends meet, partly because they are only paid for the miles they drive, not time waiting to load and unload their rigs or sitting in traffic. Mr. Viscelli recounts a 16-hour day spent crawling through traffic in the New York area, only to get stuck at a New Jersey rail yard for the night. That day he drove 215 miles and earned $56. The result of these conditions? Drivers burn out quickly and quit."
Let’s look at the bottom line: real wages over time (below). It shows America’s progress towards becoming a plutocrats’ paradise. What would a graphic of truckers’ profits look like? Probably not like this.
The multi-decade program to break America’s unions. The “gig economy" of contingent, no-benefit, not-independent contractors helps depress wages. Massive immigration. All these depress wages and boost profits. After decades of this, the lower and middle classes are breaking.
The best is yet to come for the 1%. Team Trump will dismantle as much as possible of the New Deal regulatory apparatus - repealing regulations, repealing laws, de-funding enforcement, and de-staffing the agencies. Beyond that lies a new industrial revolution - with massive layoffs, a worker surplus to drive wages down, and increased profitability.
“Long-haul trucks have been described as sweatshops on wheels. The typical long-haul trucker works the equivalent of two full-time jobs, often for little more than minimum wage. But it wasn’t always this way. Trucking used to be one of the best working-class jobs in the United States.
“The Big Rig explains how this massive degradation in the quality of work has occurred, and how companies achieve a compliant and dedicated workforce despite it. Drawing on more than 100 in-depth interviews and years of extensive observation, including six months training and working as a long-haul trucker, Viscelli explains in detail how labor is recruited, trained, and used in the industry. He then shows how inexperienced workers are convinced to lease a truck and to work as independent contractors. He explains how deregulation and collective action by employers transformed trucking’s labor markets - once dominated by the largest and most powerful union in US history - into an important example of the costs of contemporary labor markets for workers and the general public."
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