Posts Tagged “CDL”
The USA needs around 111,000 more drivers to move the nation’s freight, according to Doug Stobiber, vice president of produce transportation for L&M Transportation Services of Raleigh, NC. He was speaking at the produce industry’s largest gathering recently, the annual convention of the Production Marketing Association (PMA), held in Anaheim, CA
While Stoiber notes better pay and higher freight rates for drivers is important, he placed just as much emphasis on truckers being repected.
He points out there is a shortage of qualified drivers and it is only going to get worse, primarily because fewer younger drivers are entering the industry, combined with greater numbers of older truckers retiring. While the average age of the commerical driver is 48 years old, the ones under 30 years of age amount to less than 10 percent.
Current law requires commerical driver’s operating interstate be at least 21 years old. President Obama is in favor of permitting states to lower the age limit to 18 years old. While supporters of this proposal are looking at ways to increase the number of drivers with CDLs (commerical drivers license), opponents point out the high accident rate among teenage automobile drivers, saying they are too young and immature to drive a big rig.
Starting this year, the nation’s largest generation (baby boomers) are reaching 65 years of age. They are retiring at a rate of 10,000 each day.
Stoiber made some economic comparisions between hauling dry freight, compared to fresh produce. There are liabilities as a produce trucker. Those remain until the papers are signed and the receiver accepts the load. The use of a refrigeration unit on a trailer adds an additional $1,500 in costs to a coast-to-coast haul. Overall, there are fewer risks with dry freight. Even with all the economic factors involved in produce hauling, Stoiber emphasizes the need for the produce industry giving drivers more respect. This will go along way in attracting more drivers to haul produce.
“Truckers have been viewed as obstacles to doing business instead of partners in the supply chain,” Stoiber said.
He encouraged the audience to pay higher freight rates and to think in terms of price per consumer unit instead of $1,000 per load. It comes down to more than just a good freight rate. Loyalty and respect are very important to truckers, he said.
Stoiber also addressed issues brought forward by a group encourging better practices in dealing with produce truckers. The North American Produce Transportation Working Group (NAPTWA) earlier this year released guidelines for making fresh produce hauling more attractive. Tips range from decreasing detention time when loading and unloading, to allowing drivers to watch loading.
The best practices are regularly reviewed and updated as federal regulations and other factors change the way truckers are allowed to operate, said Stoiber, who is a member of NAPTWA. The best practices are free on the working group’s website at www.naptwg.org.
“When I started trucking 30 years ago, I was making similar wages to what these guys are making today,” states Randy Boushey, who used to truck a lot and still owns three older Freightliners he uses when in a pinch.
Randy still has his CDL, still trucks on occasion, but focuses more on being president of A & L Potato Co., a 71-year-old company that packs and ships potatoes out of East Grand Forks, MN.
He recalls making “big money” by comparison to what drivers are receiving today.
“I wish I’d put some of it away. What’s the farmer’s prayer?” he asks himself. “Please God let me make lots of money this year, and I promise I won’t piss it away this time.”
Randy still has fond memories of the days when he spent more driving a big rig. In fact, he claims he would put another newer models on the road if getting and keeping good, qualified drivers wasn’t such a challenge.
He ships a lot of red potatoes out of the Red River of North Dakota and Minnesota.
Randy has seen scenario from both sides of the fence; as a produce trucker and as a produce shipper. He realizes how important trucking is to the equation.
“Customers don’t want to hear excuses because they didn’t receive their potatoes because you couldn’t get a truck,” Randy says. “Getting trucks to come into the valley has been a challenge early in the potato season, because there hasn’t been a lot of outbound loads here.”
Randy points out a number of changes in transportation are occurring in the Red River Valley. For example, Britton Transport of Grand Forks, ND recently acquired Scott’s Inc., a truck brokerage. Pardee Transportation of Brooks, MN has bought out Prairie Line, a small fleet based in Fargo, ND. Plus, there was another trucking that recently filed bankruptcy.
“It is not going to get any easier. As good as our freight rates are on our commodities leaving here, that is only half of the puzzle. We’ve got to be able to load the trucks back into here. With $4-plus per gallon diesel fuel, it is imperative there is a decent rate for the truck,” Randy concludes.