Special Coverage



Trucking’s Concerns Shared on a Global Scale

Driver Shortage Is Recurring Theme
Werner Enterprises CEO Derek Leathers (left) and panel on Trucking in North America at MCE 2022
Moderator Derek Leathers (left) with panelists Rob Penner, Radu Dinescu and Ramón Medrano Ibarra. (Anneliese Mahoney/Transport Topics)

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SAN DIEGO — The head of Werner Enterprises said trucking must do a better job globally of promoting itself to potential entrants by outlining how the industry provides a path to rewarding careers.

“It’s not a country issue, it’s not a geography issue, it’s not a particular part of the industry issue, whether we like it or not, it’s a job issue,” Werner CEO Derek Leathers said during a session at American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition on Oct. 24. “It’s the work itself. And we’ve got to continue to find ways to make the work more rewarding, to give people a more clear line of sight to a career path.”

Leathers cited the conference for hosting professional drivers who have talked about how the industry has supported their careers and lifestyles. But he believes there still is a long way to go to get that message out.

“If there’s some bizarre silver linings to COVID, one of those was elevating the position and the rank and the image of the professional truck driver,” Leathers said. “But it’s incumbent on us as industry leaders to carry that forward and not let that fade away.”

Werner Enterprises CEO Derek Leathers (left) and panel on Trucking in North America at MCE 2022

Werner ranks No. 17 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America and No. 33 on the TT Top 100 list of the largest logistics companies.

The International Road Transport Union (IRU) represents the interests of bus, coach, taxi and truck operators worldwide. Radu Dinescu was able to provide a global perspective as its president.

“We are working very hard to find some solution because everyone is complaining about the driver shortage,” Dinescu said. “In the last two or three years, we are focusing on increasing the payment to drivers, which in the end proved not to be everything.

We are working very hard to find some solution because everyone is complaining about the driver shortage.

Radu Dinescu, president of the International Road Transport Union

Radu Dinescu

“So, we will try to identify the other things, and what we discussed is lack of parking places, secure parking places. We are missing 100,000 secure parking places in Europe. And out of the 300,000 we have, only 3% are certified as secure parking places.”

Geneva-based IRU also is dedicating resources to attract young adults, women and part-time workers into the industry. Dinescu noted there is a lot of unemployment among young adults and that concerns over automation need to be addressed. IRU has also been working to forge deals with shippers to provide better conditions at loading facilities.

“We think about how this industry exploded through deregulation. It was all about the transactions for the customers and moving the freight, and today it’s about building the right jobs for those drivers,” said Rob Penner, president of Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Bison Transport. “It raises the complexity in all of our networks. But we’ve got switch networks and people operating in lanes. I would say there’s never been a time where we’ve had fewer drivers going from origin to destination than there is today. And every single day there’s fewer of those.”

Rob Penner


The environmental impact of trucking and the industry’s efforts to lower emissions also was discussed. A growing interest among customers, government regulations and new technologies have driven many advances.

“U.S. OEMs and fleets are facing increasing pressures and regulations all the time to decarbonize,” Leathers said. “While we applaud that and the position of the ATA, the position of Werner, obviously, is to do everything we can to lower our environmental footprint. We have to be prudent about it. We can’t let the rhetoric get out in front of the reality.”

Leathers added that is the situation the industry finds itself in a lot of the time. He noted that it is being tasked to reach goals that technology simply can’t support.

Penner echoed the point, adding that while appropriate targets need to be set, the industry needs to be left to figure out how to get there.

“That’s not been the path of our government and the regulators to date,” Penner said. “I use an example of our carbon tax that we rolled out. A federally backed carbon tax that takes literally hundreds of millions of dollars away from industry and then their incentives pay back tens of millions of dollars.”

Bison Transport ranks No. 53 on the for-hire TT100.

The National Chamber of Freight Transport is an industry association that represents trucking in Mexico. Association President Ramón Medrano Ibarra highlighted how the industry has the will to become greener but lacks support from government.

There are no physical incentives for investments in green technologies.

Ramón Medrano Ibarra, president of the National Chamber of Freight Transport

Ramon Medrano Ibarra

“We do not have the latest technology engines that you had here for years,” Ibarra said. “No. 2, there are no physical incentives for investments in green technologies. So, we know that we have to go there, but since our fleet is 20 years old, you need to renew the fleet. That’s basically the main goal. So, we’ve worked with the government in the past to have some kind of incentives. But not this time.”

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