If you’ve read any stories about the supply chain crisis, you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘trucker shortage.’ People just don’t want to drive trucks, so goes the theory, and so it’s hard to get enough people on the road to haul stuff. The American Trucking Association, which is a lobbying group for large trucking firms, likes to assert such a claim, alleging we have a ‘shortage’ of 80,000 truck drivers in the pandemic. The solutions to this shortage are things like more training, recruiting younger drivers, accelerating commercial license approvals, and education to show that truck driving is a great career. The White House released a trucking action plan based on these assumptions, including training, apprenticeships, faster licensing, and recruitment.
But what if we could wave a magic wand and increase the number of experienced, competent truckers, as well as all associated equipment like trucks and chassis, by two thirds? As it turns out, we can. It’s called paying truckers for their time. You see, right now, truckers are paid by the mile, and this creates the incentive to waste their time. If a trucker gets to a distribution center, he never knows if he’ll be there for 2 hours or 12 hours. The determining factor is whether the receiver needs what’s in the trailer at that moment. Those 2 hours or 12 hours, to the customer, are free. But to the system as a whole, that’s a lot of time where that experienced trucker and all his equipment isn’t on the road.
Currently, we have about 1.85 million truck drivers, and the current ‘shortage,’ according to the ATA, is 80,000 truckers. That means we need a boost in productivity of just 4.3% for truckers to ‘fill’ this shortage. In fact, as MIT researcher David Correll notes, truckers average only 6.5 hours of driving a day, but are legally allowed to drive 11 hours a day. “This implies,” Correll told Congress a few weeks ago, “that 40% of America’s trucking capacity is left on the table every day.”
I have not fact checked this. The author is a leftist who goes on to blame this problem on “deregulation” and even writes “regulators [in the past] upheld a pricing regime barring such destructive competition”, but I sometimes find portions of his writing reasonable. The part I quoted sounds generally reasonable to me – at least worth investigating more if I was going to try to understand the topic really well (which I’m not going to).
I haven’t investigated, but this conflicts with a prior belief I had. I’ve previously seen information about how truckers have to falsify driving logs because they are expected to drive more miles than is realistically possible given legally mandated rest time. This is allegedly widespread in the industry.
Both things might be true at once. How? Maybe long haul truckers do over 11 hours on some days and falsify logs on those days, and also have other days where they drive much less due to starting or ending a trip or waiting (waiting a bunch at a dropoff or pickup could actually contribute to having to drive more than you’re allowed, over the next couple days, to make up for lost time and get back on schedule). Meanwhile, maybe short distance truckers spend a lot of time waiting, average a lot fewer driving hours, and don’t ever falsify logs.
For economic reasons, this is probably either not true, or else there’s some really important reason (which he’s not telling us) why trucking companies need the truckers to wait. If the 2 to 12 hours were really completely wasted, most truckers would be willing to take slightly lower wages in order to avoid waiting, which would be to the benefit of both the company and the truckers.
A recurrant theme from mid-20th century onward seems to be parties calling for reforms, saying they’re important, campaigning on them, but then when they get power not actually doing them. This is typically attributed to “politics” and falling just shy of whatever threshold is actually needed to get the stated reform done.
I was reminded of this by the very recent and apparent death of the Democrats’ “Build Back Better” bill because at least one moderate Democrat says he won’t vote for it. I read an article about that , complaining it wasn’t the first time for Democrats and referencing an older article about the failure include a public option in Obamacare . But I can readily recall the same kinda thing happening with Republicans and stuff like repealing the estate tax and abolishing the department of education.
I don’t know whether these failures are because both party’s leadership don’t actually want what they campaign on, or whether they’re legitimately reflective of a population that is unable to reach something approaching consensus about any significant reform.
I contrast this with early 20th century alcohol prohibition. We got a super-majority of multiple political bodies in this country to pass a constitutional amendment (!) prohibiting alcohol. And then a little over a decade later we mustered super-majorities to pass another constitutional amendmendment to undo the first one. I believe (but don’t know) both measures reflected broad popular sentiment at the time.
Not that I think alcohol prohibition was good. I just think it was good that, as a country, we seemed capable of getting somewhere near a national and political consensus on “let’s try alcohol prohibition.” And then, a decade later, getting a similar consensus that “nah, alcohol prohibition isn’t working, let’s stop it.” We don’t seem capable of similar political decisiveness now.
One explanation of some of this is David Horowitz’s position (discussed in multiple books) that the Democratic party (and more) was taken over by 1960s radicals/Marxists who did a long march through the institutions. This resulted e.g. in Saul Alinsky followers being recent Democrat presidential candidates (Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton).
Another possible cause (also discussed in Horowitz books) is the influence of some political funders such as George Soros.
I’m unaware of compelling rebuttals to these claims.
If the Democrat party was reasonable in the past, but then became unreasonable when Marxists took it over, that would explain why bi-partisan agreement worked more in the past but then stopped working.
Stewart did influence the culture with his “comedy” show. That’s an inadequate excuse. But that’s no excuse for CNN. CNN should be held to a higher standard and should lead the way on doing good, serious stuff, rather than saying “well the comedy show is unserious so why are you complaining about us?”
Article compares people’s views on car market (which has recent price increases) to housing market.
But as a longtime housing guy, what’s even more interesting to me is that the price of used cars and trucks has also surged in the face of the new car supply crunch.
In the housing context, left-NIMBYs often deride the idea that adding supply of new upscale housing will impact the affordability of older units as “trickle-down economics.” Yet here is the auto industry giving us a live-fire experiment in what happens to the price of used durable goods when you curtail new production of the same kind of goods. And I think it’s really just overwhelmingly clear that if we were able to boost car production in response to the rising prices, this would in fact spill over into the used car market. Affluent people prefer new cars to used cars. But when the price of new cars goes up, some people drop out of the market for new cars and buy used ones instead. That bids up the price and makes even the cheapest cars hard to afford.
Many housing assertions are clearly false when you look at cars
And there’s lots of other stuff people don’t argue about. Nobody denies that the increased price of used cars is related to the reduced production of new ones. Nobody says that you can walk around any city and see tons of vacant cars and that must be the real problem — even though it is true that at any given time, there are tons of vacant cars. Nobody blames billionaire car-hoarders for the shortage of cars even though it is true that there really are rich car collectors who own far more vehicles than they actually drive. Nobody blames “speculators” even though it’s true that there are middlemen who make a living buying and selling used cars. And most of all, nobody blames the rapacious greed of the world’s car companies even though auto executives do enjoy the current high margins.
And I think the key is that we all have a living memory of what a functional car market looks like — the supply disruption is new enough that we can all see clearly that it’s the root cause of these problems.
Some good points, plus it’s good to see some of these comments from a leftist. Although he’s quite strongly leftist in some ways, he’s not fully tribalist on everything and is capable of being reasonable sometimes. He was a co-founder of Vox.
One of the differences between the markets is that home owners are broadly hostile to house prices going down. They want the price of their house to rise. They see their house as an investment, not as consumption (an error that economist George Reisman has written about). They don’t view their car as an investment – they expect the price of their car to go way down over the next 20 years.
I cannot tell if this is racism. I was thinking it could be racism, if the caller who left the message recognized the dialect (and cultural context) in the voicemail and dislikes the group he associates with the dialect. The man who left the message also sounded irritated and haughty in his response. His advice did not sound genuine nor like it was meant to sound genuine.
But I also thought that he could be concerned about hiring someone who would risk having anything non-standard as their voicemail, knowing that they are applying for jobs with this number as their contact information. In other words, he may not want to hire anyone who seems like they will say anything unusual or off-script to customers or coworkers. He could be strongly conformist to a certain set of standards of professionalism. He might think that anyone who does not meet his standards of professionalism is beneath him. I am not sure if he found the content of the voicemail to be a problem, other than it having stuff in addition to a basic “You have reached So-and-so, please leave a message after the beep”. What core prerequisite knowledge is needed to understand what’s going on here? I would guess grammar and social dynamics at least. Was there anything telling and obvious in the message that should have been a dead give-away?
I guess you need familiarity with our culture (or maybe you already intuitively knew the answer but looked only for logical reasoning). I read your first scenario is very likely but you wrote it in abstract, neutral terms. He heard a few seconds of her sounding obviously black and then he got triggered.
It is unrealistic that he’s equally picky about every off-script thing everyone does.
And if the company actually had high standards and was super careful, it’s unrealistic that they would have managers leaving voice mail messages that sound like the company is probably breaking the law. They’d be more careful… They’d have HR policies and the guy responding to the applicant would stay on script himself… (The standard policy of careful companies, when rejecting applicants, is to not give a reason. That’s broadly considered the safest option regarding discrimination lawsuits.) So I guess there’s a logical issue with your second scenario, but it’s more subtle than the cultural issue that of course he recognized the dialect and cultural context, and of course he’s not that uptight with everyone.
It could also help to know what sort of job she’s applying for or look it up (it’s not something that would have really high standards, although I don’t think it’s normal to treat executives with these sorts of picky standards either): https://www.harristeeter.com
Grocery stores and pharmacies are actually a pretty common place for people to work who are weirdos, misfits, or young adults (primarily male) who haven’t developed adequate social skills yet but will figure it out way more by like age 25. Based on her answering machine message, she has better social skills than their average employee and would be better at talking to customers. I don’t think that’s a big factor in their hiring, but her message should be seen as a plus. (I think big factors are things like will this person show up to work on time, do the job, and not steal anything from the store? Can they be quickly trained to use a cash register correctly? Great, that’s just what we want in candidates!)