The economic consulting firm, Global Insight, in its study, “US Truck Driver Shortage : Analysis and Forecasts”, conducted for the American Trucking Association, predicts that economic growth over the next ten years will generate a need for a 2.2% average annual increase in long-haul heavy truck drivers, or 320,000 jobs overall. Another 219,000 must be found to replace drivers aged 55 and older who will retire in the next decade, putting total expansion and replacement hiring needs at 539,000, or an average of 54,000 new drivers per year for the next decade. The study revealed, however, that if current demographic trends continue, rather than the needed increase in numbers, today’s shortage of long-haul drivers will increase to 111,000 by the year 2014.

The back-sliding appears to be inevitable. Except for the commendable effort made by Maritech earlier this month, and in spite of the latest plea from Bill Graves, the ATA President and CEO, who said, “It’s critical that we find ways to tap a new labor pool, increase wages and recruit new people into the industry that keeps our national economy moving”, there have been no indications that remedial steps are being considered. Whether anyone else is convinced of it or not, U.S. drivers as well as Mr. Graves are aware that they are the vital link “that keeps our national economy moving”. They also know that they have the power to shut things down, or at least, slow things down along the supply chain if they, collectively, become disgruntled with conditions.

Drivers in the US are pointing right now to developments in British Columbia where about 1,000 container truck drivers have gone on strike. After failing to get favorable terms from the port authority, the Vancouver Container Truck Association called it quits over the weekend in a move that will drastically reduce the movement of cargo at ports on the lower British Columbia mainland. The truckers are mainly independents who work under contract, and they’re seeking higher wages under their contracts. Terminal operators and shipping lines support their position, but Morley Strachan, the director of marketing and strategic planning for Terminal Systems, Inc. (TSI), says, “The methodology of how you work that out is the question”. Two months ago approximately 600 of these truckers staged a slowdown on the highways of B.C.’s Lower Mainland in a protest against soaring fuel costs and low wages, but the port authority and the Canadian and provincial governments turned a deaf ear. This time it isn’t a slowdown, it’s a showdown.

Could it happen here? In a heartbeat, and especially if the tactics employed by truckers north of the border achieve the desired results. Conditions on both sides of the border are exactly parallel. Low wages, skyrocketing fuel costs, long waiting lines and general dissatisfaction are the burdens of these drivers, and these unacceptable conditions have led to wholesale defections in the U.S., as studies such as the one conducted by Global Insight have revealed, and because shortages tend to exacerbate conditions, the driving community will react, collectively, with all the power at hand. Just like the Canadian brethren have reacted.

The “methodology” down here will be just as elusive unless our patented systems are installed in terminals. Our in-house delivery systems, we would remind you, call for full time employment of truck drivers. Generous annual salaries for these employed drivers will be guaranteed.