West Side Transport, Inc.
Recently the U.S. Government announced a pilot program whereby a select number of Mexican trucking companies will be allowed to operate in the United States. This pilot program is the much-delayed first step in implementing the transportation related provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiated in 1993. Ultimately it is anticipated that trucking companies in Canada, the United States and Mexico will be allowed to operate throughout the three countries.
The prospect of Mexican trucking companies operating freely in the U.S. causes great concern among parties in the United States with a vested interest in U.S. truck driving jobs, including of course U.S. based truck drivers. The concern arises because Mexican truck drivers reportedly average 30% to 40% lower average annual income compared to U.S. truck drivers. In addition to the concern about maintaining the current level of truck driving wages, truck drivers in the U.S. are accustomed to readily available truck driving jobs due to the lack of qualified drivers available to fill truck driving positions. A significant influx of Mexican trucks/drivers into the U.S. could reduce or eliminate that regular availability of U.S. truck driving jobs.
The concern various parties express about the effect Mexican trucks operating in the U.S. may have on truck driving jobs and wage levels is probably valid. But that concern is shortsighted because it focuses only on maintaining driving wages and job availability by denying Mexican trucks access to the U.S. Denying Mexican trucks/drivers from operating in the U.S. probably won’t protect the current level of truck driving jobs and wages.
Over the next five years other factors may have an additional, and possibly larger impact on truck driving wages and the persistent imbalance of too few quality drivers chasing a large quantity of truck driving jobs. Think global free trade, information technology infrastructure and businesses moving jobs around the world to their most cost-effective location.
How can globalization and free trade among countries possibly affect U.S. truck driving jobs and wages? After all, driving a truck can’t be “off-shore.” Someone physically located in the U.S must drive the truck. Exactly, and that is potentially what makes truck driving jobs very attractive to U.S. workers in the future.
Over the last 15 to 20 years, it has not been unusual for U.S. manufacturing jobs to be off-shored to a lower-wage country. Most businesses have been forced to lower their operating costs, including cost of wages, because most of us as consumers demand low-cost products. Businesses that don’t properly manage the cost of producing their product go out of business because no one will purchase their higher-cost product. That same impact is now happening to U.S. service-based jobs.
Until a few years ago almost all U.S. service-based jobs had to be performed by someone physically located in the U.S. It was impractical to send that job overseas. The development of the global high-speed fiber-optic network now makes it relatively easy, and cost-effective, to move service-based jobs to anywhere in the world. Transmission of data used in many service-based jobs to someplace in the world where the wage cost is appropriate is technologically available.
Therefore, with so many jobs relatively easily transferred around the world, jobs that are “anchored” in the U.S. because they must be physically performed here may become highly sought. Driving a truck very well could become one of those highly attractive jobs, attracting an abundance of workers to the occupation.
If this is the eventuality, what can you do to protect your truck-driving job? Perform it as well as you possibly can. Do all aspects of the job so you help your company be successful. Pick up and deliver freight on time. Be friendly and respectful to customer/shipper employees. Manage your diesel fuel usage. Drive within hours of service regulations, safely and defensively. Perform your truck-driving job with the goal of making both you and your company successful.
At West Side, we understand the importance of providing outstanding service to our customers, because providing outstanding service gives us a competitive advantage in our industry, irrespective of the inevitable changes that will surely impact us all. We believe that competitive advantage provides job security for our drivers, and helps to ensure the continuing success of our business.