First and foremost, we are not regulatory experts and we will certainly over simplify the issues. Still, we have been hearing this question from many truckers and even some industry pundits. Above all, the question is definitly worth asking.
The trucking industry, like just about everything else, is now highly regulated and highly computerized. Certain "at fault" events such as hard breaking or irratic lane changing are tracked and logged for each driver and go on their performance record. This data, along with any ticketed traffic violations, accidents and certain personal data, is used to determine a drivers overall "safety" or "risk" rating.
While you might think this could open up opportunities for better drivers and, in a round-a-bout way, increase productivity, the new regulations that limit driving time without a stop actually seem to counterract that. After all, since driving time and therefore the possibility of a negative "event" are so limited, it could actually make more sense, at least financially, for the trucking companies to employ younger and "riskier" drivers for less cost.
So, have the new safety regulations caused the driver shortage? Well, they could certainly effect turnover, particularly for drivers with more favorable driving records and experience. And, they could cetainly effect drivers that can not meet the new safety regulations, thereby further limiting the available pool of truckers to employ. However, doesn't this also create an increased opportunity for new or less experienced truck drivers, particularly at a time when unemployment is so high and a new job, or any job for that matter, is so badly needed?
All in all, it looks like it might be kind of a wash. Yes, the regulations do effect the current availability of drivers. Yes, they certainly effect the profitability of both trucking companies and truck drivers. On the other hand, they do seem to have had a significant effect on trucking fatalities and they might actually create opportunities for new drivers. Bottom line, we're not so sure that the new trucking regulations can be blamed as the main cause for the current driver shortage.
What are your thoughts?