- Trucking and logistics company Cowan Systems said it will guarantee every newly hired driver a $15,000 payment, according to an announcement last week. Cowan also said it will provide drivers who join by Oct. 1 an opportunity to earn up to $20,000 in incentives.
- Cowan officials said the payment isn't a sign-on bonus paid out over years. Instead, new drivers will get more than half of their payout amount within the first six months. "Professional truck drivers who join us now will get their full payout in less than 18 months," Steve Wells, Cowan COO, said in the announcement.
- The last estimate by the American Trucking Associations was that the industry was down nearly 61,000 drivers in 2018, with the shortage projected to grow to 160,000 drivers by 2028. Yet the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association issued a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Tuesday, calling the driver shortage a "myth."
Cowan called its Regional Driver Incentive Program offer "astonishing" in its press release, and this may be one time the offer matches the boast.
Dave Heller, vice president of government affairs of Truckload Carriers Association, said the latest incentive from the carrier "certainly opened my eyes." Heller said he has seen $10,000 incentives in the past, but the $20,000 figure is at a new level.
"It shows you the type of capacity problems we have," said Heller.
The driver shortage has multiple causes, said Heller. For one, a wave of baby boomers have retired. Another wave of drivers who have left can be attributed to the problems caused by COVID-19, Heller said. And the FMCSA implemented its online Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, and that removed drivers from the trucking workforce.
From a recruitment standpoint, "we're just not getting drivers on the front end," said Heller. Compounding the problem in 2020 was that so many driver's schools and licensing branches had to cut hours during the pandemic.
Yet not every trucking advocacy organization believes there is a driver shortage. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association disputed a federal panel's claim that a U.S. shortage of truck drivers exists.
On Tuesday, OOIDA issued a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo about a recent recommendation from a federal panel that the issue be addressed.
The International Trade Administration's Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness recently said the Commerce Department should "take a leadership role to coordinate federal agencies to immediately address the driver shortage that threatens the effectiveness of the nation’s critical supply chains." That brought a rebuke from OOIDA, which has long claimed that a true driver shortage is non-existent.
"For decades, our country’s largest motor carriers and the trade associations that represent them have perpetuated the myth of a driver shortage to promote policies that maintain the cheapest labor supply possible," said Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of OOIDA, in a letter to Raimondo.
Although OOIDA disputes a shortage, it recognizes turnover as a problem, which others say is a factor leading to a shortage.