Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Median income way too little

The American Trucking Associations’ 2014 Driver Compensation Study was announced in a press release that happily declared that “median pay for drivers was on a par with the national median for all U.S. households.”

The study “shows that now more than ever, trucking is an excellent career path,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.

For those of us born to the job, sure. There’s not much choice. But for those just trying to put food on the table and make the car payment, Bob is, how can I put this politely ... delusional.

Let’s begin with the $53,000 “national median for all U.S. households” as reported by Sentier Research, a private research company. Sentier distills data from sources including government statistics.

Those statistics don’t consider what has to be endured to earn that median $53,000.

Do those other median earners require training and a special license? Are they responsible for a Class 8 truck and trailer plus cargo worth who knows how much? While doing their job are they personally subject to volumes of federal, state, and local road laws as well as enforcement that can at times be arbitrary or worse?

Do they have to work 70 hours a week and sleep at hours that are irregular at best, restart rules notwithstanding? Are they away from home for weeks at a time? Do they have to support themselves on the road as well as a family at home? Do they have to miss birthdays, back-to-school night, and other family events big and small?

Are they subject to regulations that incrementally but inexorably constrain their day-to-day, hour-by-hour options creating personal stress that does not figure into government safety calculations? Do they have to defy those regulations and sometimes the law under company pressure, putting their livelihoods at risk, simply to retain their job?

Do they have to work with little or no respect from their company and its customers, never mind the public? Do they have to work with a company camera in their face and other kinds of electronic harassment?

Do their jobs subject them to unhealthy foods, too little beneficial exercise, and a lifestyle that could shorten their potential lifespan?

And do they work at jobs that routinely experience annual employee turnover of 100 percent or higher?

I don’t know why Bob is so sunny about these figures. They only serve to demonstrate that the “median” income for truck drivers isn’t close to enough.