LM Group News Editor Jeff Berman recently conducted a wide-ranging interview with Bobby Harris, President and CEO of non asset-based 3PL BlueGrace Logistics about various aspects of the freight transportation market. A transcript of the conversation is below.
Bobby Harris, President and CEO of BlueGrace Logistics
Logistics Management (LM): The driver shortage continues to be a big story. Many industry stakeholders have stated this is the worst it has been in years, or, perhaps, ever. How bad do you think it is?
Bobby Harris: Even though there have been driver shortages in the past, there have been ebbs and flows. But the problem with this one is that we have not seen a solution or a remedy or something that will work itself out in the short term. We believe that there is going to have to be something significant that takes place to address that issue; otherwise, it is going to get progressively worse. It is not just a little problem. It is a big problem, and it cannot be overemphasized at this point, as it is extremely viable to supply chains.
LM: What are some possible options or solutions to improve the situation? Many carriers are taking steps to increase driver pay in a big way, especially on the truckload side. Is that alone enough to fill seats?
Harris: While it is nice to see increased driver pay and incentive-based initiatives, the problem is those things take drivers from other companies and they move from one carrier to another. That does not increase the driver pool. If you walk into a high school today and ask the senior class is anyone wants to drive a truck after graduation, you likely will not find one hand raised. With an average age of 56, the driver pool is decreasing, and there are telltale signs that with the younger generation entering the workforce, there is no, or limited, interest in a blue-collar job, much less driving. At that point, we turn to the prospect of immigration, which is very hotly contested politically, but….that is going to have to be a really big part of immigration reform, wherever it is going, that needs to be considered, because without that aspect I don’t know where [carriers] are going to get drivers.
LM: What about other possible solutions?
Harris: Technology will help to increase efficiency by necessity and will result in less waste. And there has to be a big market correction in driver wages. Getting drivers to come in is one thing, but it has to be something very seismic for people to say “now I may do that. I am going to quit my other blue collar job and get a CDL.” Then you could then see kids coming out of high school in a couple of years making good money driving and that could influence younger people looking for a job. Something needs to be done to make the profession more attractive or “glamorous” because it is a huge problem right now.
LM: Have you ever seen the driver shortage situation as bad as it currently is at the moment?
Harris: Yes, this is definitely the worst I have seen. I started my career as a dockworker when I was 18 and can remember that if you had a CDL and wanted a job with a good carrier, you had to know somebody. If you got an interview, you were excited, as getting that job was a big deal. And when you got that job, it came with a lot of conditions like no facial hair, wearing a uniform, and now the standards have been considerably lowered to let people in.
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