WASHINGTON, DC – As first reported in Yahoo! Finance, Accountable.US released a new report spotlighting how big trucking companies are exploiting the pandemic to impose historically high freight costs — millions in new revenue that is heavily going towards profits or padding the pockets of shareholders and CEOs through stock buybacks instead of improving worker conditions or keep prices stable.
While trucking industry executives blame the excessive freight costs on worker shortages, Accountable.US found this is a problem largely of the industry’s own making – having gutted wages and benefits for workers over the last four decades. In fact, drivers’ pay has been more than halved from an adjusted median of $110,000 in 1980 to just $47,130 in 2020. In addition, drivers have reported that the shortage is also due to appalling working conditions, including 70-hour workweeks with no overtime pay and lax safety measures.
Even now, the big trucking industry is lobbying to keep their remaining workers from collectively bargaining for better pay, benefits and treatment – and lobbying against aspects of the Build Back Better plan that would improve labor conditions.
The sooner the big trucking companies decide to treat their workers more fairly instead of profiteering off the pandemic, the sooner we’ll see improvements on the supply chain front. Fewer market disruptions will ultimately lead to lower costs for consumers."
Tony Carrk, executive director of Accountable.US
“Last year, trucking companies in the United States suffered a deficit of 80,000 drivers, according to data from the American Trucking Associations. The trade association also estimates that about 72% of America’s freight transport moves by trucks, which shows just how dependent consumers are on drivers to deliver goods.
But amid low pay and less than desirable working conditions, many are leaving the industry in search of better opportunities. Meanwhile, drivers’ pay has been cut from an adjusted median of $110,000 in 1980 to just $47,130 in 2020.
Yet with respect to the bottlenecked supply chain, drivers currently in the industry have a clear message: they are not at fault.
“Truckers themselves are willing to work,” Tony Carrk, executive director at special interest watchdog group Accountable.US, told Yahoo Finance on Tuesday.
“The pay is not keeping pace. There’s a lot of companies that are misclassifying their workers as independent contractors versus employees,” Carrk said.
To that point, approximately 3.5 million truck drivers are employed in the United States, out of which 1 in 9 are independent, and most are owner-operators. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published data back in 2019 concluding that if wages would increase in the industry, then any long-term labor shortage would be improved.
“We do need to have more truckers. [They are] a vital part of keeping the supply chains working, and we need to address these persistent problems that have been occurring long before the pandemic,” Carrk said.
“Some of these individuals have an opportunity to make more than they ever have before. The pay is pretty competitive right now, but as the individual continues to gain experience, I think that is [when it] deteriorates some of these drivers,” Carrk told Yahoo Finance.
Additionally, a recent Accountable.US report suggested that some of the largest trucking companies were rigging the system at the expense of American consumers and truck drivers.
“The big trucking companies are boasting record profits. They’re saying that they’re in the most profitable position that they have been in history in some cases,” Carrk said.
“Meanwhile, what we’re seeing is that prices are going up for average consumers and we’re not seeing any improvement for the working conditions for truckers themselves,” he added.