People who could help drivers could care less

After I read an article in the Jan. 24th issue of the USA Today about a shortage of OTR drivers, I realized I was fed up. The same cast of characters from the ATA, England, Knight, etc. were quoted about the problem. I wanted to scream: “They are the problem.” The fact is that in the last 20 years the so-called leaders of the trucking profession, the ATA, the TCA, OOIDA, and state trucking associations have failed miserably to promote and progress trucking, at least from the driver’s perspective. Now that doesn’t mean that the top 100 companies haven’t thrived, grown in size and value and made millions for shareholders and owners. It’s just that we drivers haven’t shared in the spoils. Want proof?

In 1990, my second full year of driving, I made $36,000 running over 155,000 miles at 22 ½ cents per mile. Using the U.S. Department of Statistics Consumer Price Index I calculated that over the last 18 years the average yearly inflation rate was 3.3 percent. That means that adjusted for 18 years worth of inflation $36,000 today would be worth $62,500. I made $59,800 running over 155,000 miles in 2007 at 36.5 cents per mile. That means that after 18 years, running the same amount of miles, I can’t even keep pace with inflation. That also means that 18 years worth of above-average performance {you’ll have to take my word on that} is worth exactly nothing. What other industry could be so pathetic? I know that I have it better than most drivers so I am not complaining about a bad situation. Drivers are simply way underpaid.

Think it’s bad for the driver? It’s worse for the owner-operator. My boss made 75 cents per mile pulling a company trailer back in 1990. What is the average rate to pull a company trailer today? I would think 90 to 95 cents is about right. Let’s see, truck shop labor has gone from $40- to $90-plus, a 100 percent increase. A scale ticket has gone from $5 to $8.50, a 70 percent increase. A bacon-and-egg breakfast could be had for $3.99, now you’re lucky if you can get it for $6.99, a 75 percent increase. See the picture?

Everything a person would touch has gone up over 50 percent. Except the rate to pull a trailer, a 25 percent rise. Let me repeat that: eighteen years and a 25 percent increase. Is that shameful or what that our industry can be full of recruitment ads bragging about their great pay?

Shame on all the so-called leaders of our industry who over the last 20 years have grown their companies and their pockets and put peanuts in drivers’ pockets. They have done zero to stop the dock abuse, demand shippers and receivers be regulated right alongside carriers and drivers, and show the country by the respect of the dollar that driving a truck is a valuable profession. The fact that most companies pay 90 to 95 cents-per-mile tells anybody with a brain a certain amount of collusion, passive or not, is the reason so many offer the same deal.

The cold hard fact is that the men that have the ability to change things for the driver could care less. They think drivers are little more than vagrants with a cell phone and a computer, live in their truck, and should be glad to spend 20 to 30 unpaid hours in a dock a week and make $45,000. If I’m wrong let them explain how in good conscience they can over a 20-year period offer a paltry 25 percent raise and justify it with a corresponding 25 percent raise in rates. We all know rates have risen more than that. All I can say is that you don’t have all of us snowed.

Don Aper,

Company driver