The Problem of Port Trucking

The Problem of Port Trucking

In a recent investigation, USA Today found that port truckers on the eastern coast have been forced to work under inexcusable conditions. There is a growing, consumer-driven interest in the way that our products are made; whether it be a preference for humane manufacturing, American made, Eco-friendly, etc., most Americans care deeply about the products that they buy. But there is almost no attention to the way that they are transported, even amid an escalating problem with the transportation industry. Drivers work longer hours for less pay, and while there is legislation and rules in place to prevent such exploitation, companies are particularly good at evading them. Port drivers are often trapped into abusive labor contracts and lease-to-own agreements without knowing what they are agreeing to beforehand, whether it be from language barriers or threat of job termination.

The USA Today article stated that the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports in southern California account for 37% of container traffic into the United States and drivers at these two ports are subject to some of the worst conditions. The drivers are overworked and underpaid, and have little to no leverage to improve their situation– the article likened their plight to modern indentured servitude. The lease-to-own contracts leave them in debt and their low wage insures that they are unable to leave the position, even if they wanted to. Due to the high amounts of debt, fees, and fines, many drivers end up losing their rigs anyway.

Trucking companies find any and every loophole available to avoid treating their drivers like human beings. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the government regulates a minimum wage ($7.25) and maximum number of hours per week (40) for employees, but these trucking companies do not classify their drivers as employees, but independent contractors, which allows them to overwork and underpay them. On the rare chance that legal action is taken against them, companies have been known to shut down and reopen under a new name in order to sidestep paying back wages. Additionally, longshoremen unions are jacking up worker’s wages, which drives up consumer prices. All of these problems fall onto the backs of truck drivers, and while there have been some remedies proposed in Congress, we have seen little progress. It is questionable whether or not governmental pressure would even alleviate these problems, since trucking companies have evaded intervention in the past.

The USA Today investigation into this issue makes a persuasive case for a reform in the trucking industry, particularly on the eastern coast. Consumer interest in the products that they buy should not end with manufacturing, and retailers concerned with image should be more vocal as well.

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Written by: Shayla Powers

Driver Shortages and Pay Gap

Driver Shortages and Pay Gap

In the United States, the average age of truck drivers is 52, a number that increases every year, and efforts to recruit and retain younger employees have been largely unsuccessful. Some think that the shortage in younger drivers is due to a industry-wide bad image and reputation, and other think that it has to do with a combination of long hours and low pay. However, an increasing majority thinks it’s both. Low fuel prices, a steady economy, and consumer demand for online products has skyrocketed the demand for industry, but the wages are not worth the long hours away from home like they used to be. The younger generation is also passing up the trucking industry for jobs that are less physically demanding and less regulated.

Although the millennial generation has overtaken the baby boomers as the largest group in the workforce, the number of 25- 34 year-olds in the trucking industry has dropped by 50 percent.  Issuance of CDLs is up by 10 percent in 38 states, but the retention rate is less than half, with a third leaving in the first 90 days. Licensing fees add up, tickets can be fatal, and for most, the pay just isn’t worth the money that they need to shell out before they can even operate.

This labor shortage is no new complication– the industry has essentially been short of drivers since the 80s, when deregulation caused a jump in the number of trucking companies and therefore the need for drivers. It doesn’t seem likely that this shortage will end anytime soon, either. The American Trucking Association estimates that the industry will need around 890,000 new drivers by 2025 to meet the rising demand for online goods. Along with lower pay, drivers feel an increasing disconnect with their companies, stating that they feel like “throwaways,” although the shortage of drivers suggest otherwise.  So while the solution seems simple (i.e. higher pay) there’s more to the issue than what meets the eye.

Written By: Shayla Powers

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