Determinants of Job Satisfaction among Long-Distance Truck Drivers: An Interview Study in the United States

Article excerpt

This research examines job satisfaction of long-distance truck drivers in the United States. These workers are important to better understand because they are good surrogates for a growing category of contemporary workers; specifically, men and women who work at home with no direct management supervision. Data collection, using a modified grounded theory approach to increase study objectivity, took place at a large truck-stop located adjacent to an Interstate Highway. One hundred-four drivers, who had stopped to refuel their trucks, were each interview ed for 10 to 15 minutes. The respondents were willing to share their thoughts with the researchers, as there were almost no refusals to participate in the study. About 60% of the drivers would not recommend their occupation to their children. The most common reasons were: excessive time away from home, hard to make a reasonably good income, and their work is not a respected occupation. However, almost 40% of the drivers would encourage their children to be long-distance drivers. The most noted positive aspects were: no two days are ever the same, if one works "smart" you can make a good living, and with no direct supervision, the job teaches responsibility and independence.

Introduction

The long-distance trucking industry faces a serious operational issue in the near future: a shortage of qualified drivers. While the problem is less severe now because of the economic recession the United States is currently experiencing, the impending driver shortage will materialize once again when the economy starts to grow. In 2005, the American Trucking Associations commissioned a study by the marketing research company, Global Insights, to determine the extent of the present and future driver shortage. The study concluded that between 2005 and 2015, the long-distance trucking industry would have to attract approximately 540,000 new drivers. The report was based on the assumption that the industry would grow at a rate of 2.2% per year, which would require an additional 320,000 new drivers over the ten year period. In addition, the report noted many current drivers were age 55 or above, and assuming they retire at 65, the industry will need another 220,000 drivers to replace these workers (Global Insights 2005). In 2008, Joe White, a transportation consultant, studied the ATA/Global Insights report and concluded, "My opinion is that the driver shortage will be worse than predicted. Regardless of when the economy recovers, the large baby boomer demographic will soon begin retiring from all industries and the blue-collar labor shortage will become fierce" (Gallagher 2008, see also White 2008a and White 2008b).

More recently, Stephen Russell, president and chairman of the Celadon Group, an Indianapolis, Indiana based truckload carrier, stated, "Demographics suggest that once the economy regains its forward momentum, truckload carriers will once again have to wrestle with a shortage of drivers. The current crop of drivers is aging, and the growth in the pool of potential candidates will not fill the void" (Gallagher 2009). In 2010, trucking management is still highly concerned about the future driver shortage. The president of a trade association of trucking companies observed, "Due to the (economic) problems in 2009, there will continue to be a driver shortage because of drivers who left the industry believing they could not earn a living. These drivers will never return and the future driver pool looks dim" (Bader 20 1 0). Reinforcing this position is Hans Moller, president of large trucking company. He observed, "Driver recruitment, retention and compensation will remain a challenge for the long-term viability of our industry. Many initiatives are ongoing, however, more needs to be done to attract and retain the right individuals to our industry" (Moller 2010, see also Cassidy 2010).

There will be a shortage of long-distance truck drivers in the near term, there is literally no doubt about that fact. …