Greg Fulton

Greg Fulton, president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association

We know what truck drivers are worth now. They’re worth everything. A year ago last spring, as the world shut down and toilet paper and steak became scarce, it was truckers who pulled us through and delivered a solution.

They always have, and for all the blather about getting vehicles off the road, suggesting the trucking industry do so is lunacy. Our government has never lacked lunatics.

Truck drivers and delivery people are essential workers, and it's time they're thought of as a public good, like clean, fresh air and public schools. Their challenges are our challenges.

There's a lot going on right now behind how your goods get to your local market and front door, so listen up.

First off, in the General Assembly jacked up fees on fuel and deliveries, along with electric vehicles and ride sharing, to pay for a $5.4 billion transportation package, which sounds pretty good. What sounds less good is that more of it should have gone to addressing the problems challenging the nation's over-the-road circulatory system.

Truckers need asphalt not political aspirations. Time is money and Colorado's interstates are an open vein, where timetables go to perish.

Political apathy, stinginess and shortsightedness masquerading as farsightedness are to blame. What our transportation system will look like in 20 years is a good thing to talk about while you're stuck in a traffic jam this afternoon.

I've heard about the studies that say more lanes just attracts more cars, but doing nothing does nothing, and doing barely enough is what Colorado has been doing for a decade.

Aspirations won't get toilet paper to Costco. Truckers will.

As our economy evolves to shopping at home, Americans still need the same goods delivered further. The cargo industry has to figure out a way to get them to your door. Getting in their way is counterproductive.

There’s something pigs know that politicians don’t seem to get: You shouldn’t poop where you eat.

Haulers have enough to worry about, starting with a worsening shortage of drivers

The industry needed 61,000 drivers in 2018, a nearly 20% increase over the year before, according to a 2019 report from the American Trucking Association.

The industry is predicting that on the current course it could be short more than 160,000 drivers by 2028.

“I know very few companies who aren’t looking for drivers,” Greg Fulton, the president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, told me.

The afternoon we spoke, he said there were more than 4,000 employers searching a database to hire drivers with commercial licenses.

Trucking companies across the country will need to hire more than 1 million drivers in the next decade alone to handle the increased demand and to reinvigorate the aging workforce.

Nationally, the average age of a truck driver is 48 years old. Only 9% of drivers are younger than 30, about 80% are men and 2 out of 3 are white, according to the national trade association.

As with most things in our free market economy, it would be nice if the government would get out of the way, or, better, provide some help, which would help a lot of people into a good-paying job.

There's reason for optimism here, as state leaders look to broaden the definition of higher education to include more than a four-year-degree at a university, with its uncertain job prospects and, most often, certain levels of crushing student debt.

The average truck driver in Colorado earns $66,630 a year, and the top 10% of drivers make an average of $105,000 annually.

The average pay for a person with a liberal arts degree, such as yours truly, is $40,333.

One way to coax more people into the profession is to get the federal government out of the way.

Colorado already is one of 49 states that allows 18-year-olds to get a commercial driver’s license, but federal regulations still set the age at 21 to cross state lines. That makes sense how?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is trying out a pilot program to allow younger drivers behind the big rig wheel, at least for extra training and mentorships to help attract new drivers to the profession.

The industry also is trying to recruit more women and minorities.

Diversity in gender and race is not just the thing to do, but the profitable thing, as well, a report last year by McKinsey & Company indicates. 

That’s largely because companies with diverse employees tend to have smarter leaders and, not coincidentally, less trouble filling jobs.

“There is ample evidence that diverse and inclusive companies are likely to make better, bolder decisions — a critical capability in the crisis,” stated the analysis.

As for gender: “Companies in the top quartile of gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability than peer companies in the fourth quartile.”

Fuel is a factor, too. The price is alarming, and its scarcity is even more alarming, Fulton said.

"Having stations regularly running out of fuel has been unheard of in the past, but is becoming more commonplace in certain areas," he said.

It's time for the government to stop piling on truckers, and time for the economy that depends on them to roar. What happens on the road will arrive on your doorstep.

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