Trucker Shortage as Government Failure
Jeremy Kidd, J.D., Ph.D.*
Joseph R. Padgett, J.D.**
It is getting harder and harder to find truckers. As the population grows, it
would be natural for the number of big trucks on the road to increase. After
all, more people means more goods being transported, and that means an
increase in the number of vehicles transporting those goods. Trains, planes,
and automobiles all get in on the act, but a staple of the transportation industry
for decades has been the large truck. Of course, until the advent of self-
driving vehicles, each of those large trucks needs an operator, and that is a
problem for many trucking companies because they cannot hire enough
truckers to keep goods moving.
This looming problem poses significant risks to commerce, but it is also
an important case study of how problems arise and persist in markets.
Specifically, it provides a useful example for distinguishing between those
problems that arise naturally in markets and those that arise because of
previous interference in markets by government agents, whether local, state,
or federal. This essay will demonstrate how the trucker shortage is a failure
of government action, rather than a failure of the market for trucker services.
After briefly summarizing an extensive literature on how market failures and
government failures are likely to arise, the essay will present a simple but
effective diagnostic process for determining when government regulation is
likely to be helpful and when it is likely to inhibit efficiency. After doing so,
the essay will then present a brief history of trucking regulation and show
how current regulations, not inherent flaws in the market, are to blame for
our current predicament.
II. MARKETS AND HOW THEY FAIL
All market participants adjust their behavior according to the
circumstances they face, measuring the costs and benefits of each action as
Associate Professor of Law, Mercer University School of Law. I wish to thank Don
Boudreaux for helpful comments.
** Associate, Hall Booth Smith, P. C.