Regarding the June 29 front-page article “Trucker shortage poses economic threat”:
I have been a truck driver since 1986. Adjusting for inflation, I haven’t seen a raise since the 1980s. Are current wages adequate? Some $70,000 a year for a job that expects 14-hour days (more when you factor in accessorial duties) is mediocre at best. For decades, members of American Trucking Associations have been in a virtual race to the bottom with respect to workplace quality of life as they cannibalize one another’s drivers.
As if the morale of the American trucker couldn’t get any lower, these same large carriers have been importing labor to avoid paying wages that are commensurate to the demands of the job.
And, not to be outdone when it comes to imposing inequities on the American trucker, the federal government’s newly enacted hours-of-service rules compel truckers to break at arbitrary intervals. Moreover, I am disincentivized to take a short-duration safety break, as such breaks deplete from my hours to drive because of the 14-consecutive-hour rule.
Michael Nichols, Cross Plains, Wis.
The June 29 front-page article on the trucker shortage did not address why there is a shortage. It didn’t just happen, like the weather; it was intentionally created by truck company owners to lower labor costs. Until trucking deregulation in the early 1980s, most over-the-road drivers worked under Teamster contracts providing the best wages, health insurance, pensions and job protections of any manual, working-class job in the United States. Nonunion companies had to offer similar conditions to stop their workers from organizing into the Teamsters.
Deregulation opened the industry to both nonunion, low-wage companies and to independent operators. National Labor Relations Board policies that made it impossible to organize these workers combined to bring about the trucking industry’s desired results so well documented in the article: low wages, long hours, unsafe working conditions and no rights to address 10-to-12-hour shifts and weeks-long driving away from home. It’s not like the weather. There are culprits. If drivers, like all workers, had the right to organize, they would solve the problems the industry owners created.
Robert Muehlenkamp, Takoma Park
The writer is a former Teamster general organizing director and assistant to Teamster
General President Ron Carey.