Blog Post

FreightWaves gets it wrong on driver shortage

Sep 06, 2023

FreightWaves CEO Craig Fuller calls the truck driver shortage a “myth” in a recent piece of self-promotion, but his assertion collapses under the weight of facts and data.

Fuller claims the shortage is an ATA fabrication—a narrative perpetuated for our convenience. Of course, we’re not alone in reporting this issue. Driver shortages are global in scope, with growing vacancies felt across the Americas, Asia, and Europe, and documented in IRU’s 2022 Global Driver Shortage Report:

In Europe, driver shortages jumped by 42% from 2020 to 2021, with vacant driver positions reaching 71,000 in Romania, 80,000 in both Poland and Germany, and 100,000 in the UK. In Mexico, shortages rose by 30% to reach 54,000, while in China, they increased by 140%, reaching 1.8 million.

This global reality is explained by common denominators unique to our industry – structural factors concentrated in the over-the-road market, regardless of country. Demographics tell the story: 

  • An aging workforce, 
  • Barriers to entry for younger workers,
  • Underrepresentation of women, and 
  • Lifestyle preferences precluding many job seekers from considering long-haul trucking. 

Given the constraints on supply, it’s understandable why this labor market is chronically tight and faces a growing deficit over the long-term. It's not hard to find the real-world evidence widely documented in states across the country. As reported just this week by the Associated Press and Tennessee Board of Regents: 

“On the Tennessee Department of Labor Workforce Development’s website, they had listed about 1100 open CDL driver jobs in the state of Tennessee, but that’s just from the companies who chose to post on the state website. Not all do that,” said TBR Center for Workforce Development Executive Director Jeff Sisk. “I’m sure the number is at least double that in the state of Tennessee — at least a couple thousand CDL jobs right now.”

That’s why ATA continues to advocate for policies to expand the pool of talent and ensure our supply chain has the workforce it needs to support the economy. The existence of a driver shortage is also corroborated by microeconomic indicators showing across-the-board pay increases as fleets look to recruit and retain drivers:

  • According to USDOL, hourly earnings in for-hire general freight have risen 23.5% since the start of 2020.
  • ATA surveys show an 18% increase in annual compensation for truckload drivers between 2019 and 2021.
  • Between 2020 and 2021, over 90% of responding truckload carriers rose driver pay in 2021 and offered an average increase of 10.9%

Why would truckload carriers increase pay if labor supply isn’t tight? 

Fuller gets other points wrong, claiming ATA only represents mid- and large-size fleets. In fact, the ATA Federation encompasses 37,000 member companies, of which:

  • 35% operate 0-25 trucks,
  • 33% operate 26-99 trucks, and
  • 32% operate more than 100 trucks.

We succeed as an advocacy organization because we come armed with facts and data. That’s why we have an open door with policymakers at the highest levels of government, whereas others in this space constantly find themselves on the outside looking in. 

ATA isn’t in the business of peddling narratives; that’s FreightWaves’ lane. Their bottom line is driven by story lines—and increasingly of the false variety.