To keep truck drivers in the industry, there must be good working conditions and competitive wages. Those are the keys to driver retention.
However, OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh told a House subcommittee earlier this month that large trucking companies often are not keeping up their end of the bargain. Instead of a truck driver shortage, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association contends that turnover rates of 90% or higher at large fleets are a result of low pay and an industry culture that makes it difficult for truckers to even find a place to park or use the restroom.
“Let’s consider the facts,” Pugh said in his testimony. “Truckers struggle to find a safe place to park, wasting nearly an hour of productive time each day searching for a place to rest. They’re routinely denied access to restrooms at the facilities where they pick up and deliver.”
And because truck drivers are often paid by the mile instead of by the hour, their time is not valued. It may take a truck driver 70 hours a week to make what workers from other industries take home in 40 hours. To make matters worse, truck drivers are exempt from being paid overtime for time worked beyond 40 hours.
“Detention time, which is the unproductive time they waste at shippers and receivers waiting to be unloaded, continues to increase, and many of these truckers are not paid for these hours due to the federal regulation exempting employee drivers from overtime pay,” Pugh said.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., asked Pugh, as well as International Brotherhood of Teamsters representative Cole Scandaglia, why drivers leave the industry.
Paying drivers fairly would be a good start
“The first and foremost is driver pay,” Pugh said. “There’s plenty of research, plenty of studies out there, – the pay is drivers’ top concern. Actually, this past year it was pay and parking … Truckers’ pay has not kept up with inflation since the 1970s, and it continues to go down. And like I mentioned in my testimony, truck drivers are exempt from overtime, which is ridiculous when they work 70, 80 hours a week, every week.”
“I think we fundamentally agree with Mr. Pugh there,” he said. “I think low wages for very hard work is the biggest issue that we face when it comes to (driver) retention.”
Removing the overtime exemption
Rep. Jefferson Van Drew, R-N.J., advocated for the removal of the overtime exemption. Van Drew co-sponsored the Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act in the previous congressional session and asked his colleagues to support the bill when it is reintroduced.
“I, for one, I do rise in support of removing the exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” Van Drew said. “It denies truckers guaranteed overtime pay. Any other industry or business, when you work hours and hours over your regular time, you get paid overtime. It’s only fair. And truckers work harder than just about anybody else. So it makes it even more fair.”
Truck parking crisis
Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., believes that another good way to keep truckers in the profession is by making sure they have a safe place to rest.
The lack of truck parking nationwide has been at crisis levels for some time now.
Bost, who introduced the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, asked Pugh about the amount of stress that the lack of truck parking places on truck drivers.
“It’s very stressful,” Pugh said. “I don’t know if anyone’s ever gone on vacation and … didn’t make hotel arrangements … You’re trying to find a place to sleep, and it’s hard, and that happens to normal people. This happens to truckers every day. They can’t find a place. They want to take a break.”
Restroom access for truckers
In addition to needing a place to rest, truck drivers need a place to use the restroom. However, the reality is that truck drivers are often denied access to the restrooms at the very place they are delivering freight.
Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, wants to end this practice because it contributes to the retention problem and simply because letting them have a place to relieve themselves is the right thing to do.
Nehls introduced the Truckers Bathroom Access Act in the previous congressional session and is expected to reintroduce the bill soon.
“I just want to put on the record to all the lobbyists and trade associations that are trying to sink this bill, ‘I really don’t care what you think on this issue,” Nehls said. “Just imagine if Congress banned lobbyists from using restrooms as you wait outside these committee rooms or offices. Imagine if you were told – all you lobbyists – ‘go outside and find a tree. Hell, go find a fire hydrant. Go outside and relieve yourself because we’re not going to let you do it in here.’ How long do you think that would last? What do we want to do, treat our truckers like cats and dogs?”
Pugh said that the problem of truckers being denied restroom access has gotten worse since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I never thought we’d be sitting here in the House of the Congress of the greatest nation in the world talking about giving people the right to use the restroom when they’re trying to do their job,” Pugh said. “But, unfortunately, I guess that’s the way we’ve gotten in society.” LL