cargo. This government failure exacerbates the shortage in two ways: first,
extra trucks need drivers, worsening the trucker shortage; second, extra
trucks represent additional capital outlays, which reduce the amount an
employer can allocate to labor services, hindering the ability of employers to
raise wages and correct the shortage.
One final impact of the HOS rules must be addressed. It is estimated that,
given the complexity of the rules, drivers will not be able to drive more than
8,000 miles per month, down from almost 11,000 in 2007, 60 under the
previous rules. Since drivers are paid by the mile, rather than by the hour,
HOS rules effectively limit a driver’s pay, making it harder to attract new
drivers. Even with the possibility of an increased per-mile wage, the pool of
potential drivers will be reduced any time there is an absolute ceiling on
wages. This supply-side distortion is partnered with demand-side problems;
specifically, that employers who have cargo that must travel a certain number
of miles in a month must now hire additional drivers for the very same
amount of cargo carried. This will increase the total demand for drivers but
will limit any potential wage increases, since the employer has seen no
increase in total revenues.
3. Are the Regulations Helping?
There is no evidence that the shortage of drivers is caused by imperfections
inherent in the market; rather, all the evidence points to government failure.
These regulations may have created the shortage and they certainly are
increasing the severity and duration. Yet there is still the possibility that the
shortage is a necessary cost of correcting other market failures, namely the
negative safety externalities that have provided the political justification for
regulation of the industry from the early days of trucking. So, the question
remains—do these regulations reduce safety hazards?
The empirical evidence offers little support for that proposition. First of
all, driver fatigue does not appear to be the primary source of driver error; in
2007 government data, driver fatigue was a factor in only 13% of fatal and
injury truck crashes, less than the contribution of many other factors,
including brake problems (29%), excessive speed (23%), unfamiliarity with
the roadway (22%), environmental roadway problems (20%), over-the-counter drug use (17%), and inadequately surveying their surroundings
(14%). 61 Overall, driver fatigue ranked 7th out of 19 factors, and the
government data left out potentially-significant factors such as traffic flow
60. Neil Irwin, The Trucking Industry Needs More Drivers. Maybe It Needs to Pay More,
N. Y. TIMES, August 9, 2014.
61. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study – Analysis Brief, U.S. DEP’T TRANSP., FED.
MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMIN. (July 2007), https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-analysis-brief.