Merry Christmas

Truck drivers have been the whipping boys of late, but at least one company realizes how important these folks are in this country’s jammed up supply chain. Schneider National, Inc. is putting together a compensation package that will add significant amounts to the benefits provided to their drivers and owner-operators. The program is scheduled to go into effect early in February but the good news makes for a nice Christmas present to the drivers and their families. Although the exact details haven’t been made known yet, Scot Arves, Schneider’s National President of Transportation, said, “This investment lets our more than 15,000 drivers and owner-operators know that we’ve listened carefully to their concerns and are making investments that will impact their paychecks, careers and quality of life both at home and on the road”. Schneider National deserves a gold star for this move.

Let’s face it. Truck drivers are undeniably the most valuable asset we have in the logistics supply line. Regardless of the size advancements (?) made in container ships, the high-tech upgrades (?) in container yard operations, and the expanded railroad services throughout the country, all will be for naught if the drivers continue to leave the industry. No longer can we call upon nearby factories to provide goods for our consumption because we’ve allowed ourselves to be outbid by overseas manufacturing entities. In this country, because ports have taken the place of local manufacturing facilities as the sources of almost all our needs, drivers have necessarily become our lifeline. This link in the supply chain is the nation’s jugular. We may as well recognize that fact and do our utmost to keep it intact. Arterial, or venous, breakdowns tend to have an adverse and lasting effect on circulation. As examples:

• Last June and July there was a trucker stoppage in Miami. It didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time but the port still hasn’t fully recovered.
• Even though the seasonal vessel congestion in LA/Long Beach has subsided, transfers of containers by drivers from the terminal area to warehouse destinations are as much of a problem now as they were at the peak of the rush.
• In a survey conducted by Dr. Luiz Duarte and First Fleet Corporation, 77% of those polled said that a major shortage of qualified drivers is one of the most critical transportation issues.
• This year saw volume increases in the 10% to 15% ranges in U.S. ports, and the managing director of freight forwarder J.F. Hillebrand USA stated that this year’s port congestion was the worst he’s ever seen. 2005, according to all indicators, will see even greater volumes, yet drivers are leaving in increasing numbers.
• Hearken back to what Paul Heylman said this past May about the situation. “The current economic model with drivers is probably not sustainable. Truckers are making practically nothing compared to the ILA and the ILWU.” [More than 300,000 applicants showed up to apply for a few thousand ILWU positions in LA/Long Beach late this year. The pay is good, that’s why. Can you imagine how many applicants would show up if a call were to be made for truck drivers in today’s scheme of things? None. That’s how many.]

Merry Christmas, everyone.