Doug Voss Says Driver Shortage Dire, but Shippers Hold Sway on Higher Pay

Doug Voss Says Driver Shortage Dire, but Shippers Hold Sway on Higher Pay
Doug Voss
Associate Professor of Logistics and Supply Chain Management at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway (Karen E. Segrave)
Doug Voss’ first job after earning a bachelor’s degree in transportation and logistics from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville was with Atlas Transportation in Searcy. He later returned to the UA to earn a master’s degree and then added a doctorate in logistics from Michigan State. He is currently an associate professor of logistics and supply chain management at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

Voss is a member of the Arkansas Trucking Association’s board of directors.

How can academia help the industry? What is UCA’s supply chain logistics degree accomplishing?

UCA’s logistics and supply chain management program is the fastest-growing major in our College of Business. We recruit students into the major, which exponentially increases the likelihood of these students working in the trucking industry after graduation. Without our program, our students would likely pursue careers elsewhere. I sometimes joke that recruiting students is more valuable to the industry than the education we provide.

Academics are essentially paid to gather, create and disseminate information. We do this through conducting research, assessing best practices and sharing this information with our students and industry partners. Managers are frequently so busy putting out fires that they don’t have time to remain abreast of what’s occurring outside their bubble. We uncover and share information that helps move the industry forward.

What will it take for infrastructure to become a bipartisan national priority?
It’s already a bipartisan priority. Both parties know something has to be done. Our leaders have yet to determine a mutually acceptable way of paying for infrastructure.

One of two scenarios will have to occur to get something done: either one party controls all three branches of government or “we the people” finally give our leaders the leeway to compromise. We can’t expect our leaders to compromise if we threaten to vote them out of office every time they give a little to get a little in order to get the job done.

What’s the solution to the driver shortage problem? Is it as dire as the industry says?
The driver shortage is No. 1 on almost every trucking executive’s list of problems. In that sense, it is without a doubt as dire as the industry says it is. We are not attracting and retaining enough qualified drivers. We do not pay drivers enough for the hard work they do and the difficult lifestyle they endure. When the average driver makes $100,000 per year, you won’t hear nearly as much about the driver shortage. The trick has been getting shippers to compensate trucking companies appropriately so that trucking companies, in turn, can compensate drivers appropriately.

Do you think Arkansas’ highway plan from this past legislative session is a solution or a temporary fix or too little to make a difference?
The governor and Legislature are to be commended for passing legislation to begin addressing Arkansas’ highway needs and for referring the half-cent sales tax reauthorization to voters, which is where most of the money will come from. The “plan” is excellent. However, if Arkansans don’t reauthorize the half-cent sales tax, the plan will make a difference but won’t accomplish what we need to accomplish.

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Do you think driverless trucks will ever become a thing?
The use of technologies to assist drivers will be increasingly used, but I don’t believe large numbers of autonomous trucks will be on the road in my professional career. There’s too much to work through. People don’t want to share the road with driverless trucks in the same way they don’t want to be on a pilotless airplane, despite the fact that planes now basically fly themselves.