estimate of 48,000 by the end of 2015 and 175,000 by the end of 2024.40 Each
truck without a driver means goods not arriving as quickly or efficiently as
they would in an efficient market. That, in turn, means consumers waiting
longer and/or paying more for goods. 41 Similarly, in an interconnected
economy, disruptions in one industry can spill over into other industries. 42
These are real costs to real people, and it is important to identify the real
cause of these costs, whether it be market imperfections or external
interference in the market by government.
At the heart of any shortage is an inability of the market to adjust prices to
correct the imbalance between supply and demand. The price of truck-driving
services appears quite low, having fallen from a high-wage mark of $12/hour
in 1978 to around $8.50/hour by the late 1990s. 43 Although there have been
increases since then, the existence of a shortage indicates that the price of
truck driver labor is still lower than the market-clearing wage. A word of
caution is appropriate, however, regarding placing too much emphasis on
per-hour truckers’ wages. While wages are often reported in per-hour terms
for the sake of comparison across industries, truckers are typically paid by
the mile rather than by the hour. 44 As a result, two truckers may receive the
same gross pay for a trip but receive far different per-hour wages depending
on a number of factors that are beyond the control of either truck driver or
employer. For example, high levels of traffic congestion or construction can
slow a truck driver down, increasing the total number of hours per job and
reducing per-hour pay. 45
course, estimating a driver shortage suffers from some important methodological concerns.
Typically, carriers are asked to estimate the number of additional drivers they need and a
simple sum is calculated. But, since many carriers are competing for the same freight, there is
a high likelihood of double-counting.
40. Id. The shortage did lessen during the recession of 2008, due in large part to a
reduction in demand for shipped goods, but the shortage reemerged along with the economic
41. A shortage of drivers is likely to result in increased reliance on in-store inventories,
raising the cost of maintaining any retail establishment. Id. at 6.
42. For a general example of how interconnected market players are in a modern
economy, see LEONARD READ, I, PENCIL: MY FAMILY TREE AS TOLD TO LEONARD E. READ
43. Cynthia Engel, Competition Drives the Trucking Industry, MONTHLY LAB. REV., Apr.
1998, at 38.
44. Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. DEP’T LAB., BUREAU LAB. STAT.,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/heavy-and-tractor-trailer-truck-drivers.htm#tab- 5 (last visited September 9, 2016). Per-mile pay has also declined. Engel,
supra note 43, at 39. Paying drivers by the mile, rather than by the hour, shifts the risk of
unexpected delays onto the driver, but it may be necessary in order to avoid moral hazard
problems by the driver, such as driving intentionally and unnecessarily slow in order to
increase total pay per load.
45. A common complaint by truck drivers is that industries that rely on truck driving have
refused to streamline their processes to minimize wait times by drivers. Leslie Hansen Harps,