Mike Shevell’s been around trucking a long time.
He’s seen the good, the bad and the ugly, including two economic downturns that radically impacted trucking.
So he knows of which he speaks and he’s concerned about finding qualified drivers to fill seats as the industry hopefully recovers from its present downturn, a downturn in which many qualified drivers have left the industry and carriers have had to cut back.
“There are not very many potentially qualified drivers,” he told us during a recent interview.
He said recently his company had sent 14 driver candidates for drug tests and only five passed.
“The problem [the potential driver shortage] is so acute that some of the people at our carrier friends don’t realize how acute it is,” he told us. “There are several things here. The average age of the truck driver, because of the lack of the people coming in and what happened in the last several years, is in the high 40s. And you’re going to see we predict that 30 percent of the drivers are going to disappear, especially when the new regulations come out in the next few months.” Several of his company’s drivers are having trouble passing the hazardous materials endorsement and TWIC endorsements to go into the docks (his company operates a dock in New Jersey), he said.
Then there are the shippers who Shevell says are beating up the carriers and not giving them a proper rate so the companies can make a profit.
He predicts a rude awakening for shippers who try to stiff the carriers.
“Whoever is going to pay so the carrier can survive and give the carrier a risk reward, these guys are going to get trucks,” he told us recently. “We’re seeing it already.”
Shevell predicts CSA 2010 will have a major impact on the driver population, which he predicts will lower the number of men and women wanting to drive and will weed out a lot of existing drivers.
“First of all, some of the current drivers don’t know how to do pre trips,” he told us. “When they get a ticket now, it doesn’t go against the license, it goes against the company. Now it’s going against them personally. So if they don’t do what they are supposed to do and some guy gets into a couple of accidents, he can’t drive. There are a lot of people who are just accident prone.”
So what can the industry do to attract young men and women?
“The biggest thing is the shipping community needs to realize that the days of beating up the trucking industry are over,” he said. “If the trucking industry provides a good living for its people, you will attract them. It’s no easy job for a guy behind the wheel today. People hate the trucks, they hate the people. They think truck drivers are problems and pieces of garbage, they don’t give them respect and as long as you have that in mind, you are not going to attract anybody. You are going to get the bottom of the barrel. I hate to say it. I grew up with truck drivers. I drove a truck. I still carry a CDL in my pocket.”
Shevell doesn’t like the fact that in many cases, carriers are no longer dealing directly with shippers.
“The shipper has outsourced his business to the 3PLs. Most of them — not all — are out to beat the hell out of the trucking company to take his heart out,” he said. “We have people we put rates in for and along comes the 3PL and he calls the customer and says ‘you give it to me and you’ll still have New England Motor Freight and I’ll do it for 20 percent less.’ So this guy gathers eight or 10 shippers and he waves that in front of us and says ‘you’re going to lose it.’ We can’t do it any more. We’ve done this for three years and it’s almost killed us. We have to undo it. And if the rest of the industry doesn’t take the same approach, they are not going to be here.
“The rest of the companies TL and LTL are going to have to get the proper pricing to be able to get the risk reward to get the shipper what he’s going to have to have,” he said. “These 3PLs are buying their own trucks because the trucking companies will not handle their freight. I know one guy that did it and found out what it was like to be in the trucking business and he didn’t last long, either.”
And yes, Shevell knows about which he speaks.
He’s only been in this business well over 50 years.
Lyndon Finney of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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