Yes, Virginia, there IS a truck-driver shortage

And it was intrusive government that created it.

After a long cross-country flight, I made it out of LAX and into an Uber. I wasn’t in the mood to talk, but the driver was. And hearing that I was a journalist, he wanted to tell me a story. I’ve heard a lot of stories over the years, but this may have been the most important one I let go.

He hadn’t always been driving an Uber at 11:30 at night. Not all that long ago he used to have his own business with 7 trucks before he was bankrupted by California’s insane regulations.

I listened, but didn’t pay enough attention. The impact of California’s Democrat legislative supermajority on truckers was just another data point alongside what was happening to freelancers of all kinds and a lot of small businesses. Stories like this were everywhere and there was little interest in them even in conservative circles outside the tarnished golden state.

I’m sure California’s meddlesome over-regulation isn’t helping matters any, but the truth is that the bigger, broader hand of FederalGovCo has done more damage by far. The driver shortage has been an issue since back when I was still trucking, and that was over fifteen years ago. I still talk now and then with a good few who are still out there on the job, including my own brother, and so am still more or less up on doin’s. And what’s crystal clear is that, due to numerous factors that all boil down to inept, staggeringly clueless government micromanagement, vanishingly few young guys have any interest at all in getting into the industry. Meanwhile, the increasingly-fed-up old hands are getting out just as quick as they possibly can.

Y’know, pretty much as has happened in every other corner of the economy that has felt the five-thumbed hand of government tightening around its throat for any significant length of time.

The massive supply chain mess that’s leaving stores empty and orders unfulfilled doesn’t have a single point of failure, but dozens of them. China’s energy shortages, the overhyped predictive powers of Big Data, the fragility of the global economy, fuel costs, and welfare state worker shortages are all players. But California’s truck bans are a key link in the great failure chain.

While I was riding home that night, California trucking companies were going bankrupt at a rapid rate. Few outside the industry were paying attention or understood what that might mean.

2019 was described as a “bloodbath” for the trucking industry with 640 trucking companies across the country filing for bankruptcy in just the first half of the year. Thousands of truck drivers were left unemployed. Many went into the expanding last mile delivery business, some as contractors for Amazon. But California truckers and businesses had their own special woes.

Two years ago, Governor Newsom signed the Democrat supermajority’s Assembly Bill 5 into law. While AB5 was billed as a crackdown on Uber and Lyft, forcing the companies to treat freelance contractors as employees, the gig economy companies pushed Proposition 22 so that they were the only ones exempt from the law. (A Democrat judge has since illegally blocked the approved ballot measure while falsely claiming that it was unconstitutional.)

AB5 however was less about Uber than it was about outlawing freelance employees in order to force them into unions. The union power grab inconvenienced Uber and Lyft, but crushed freelance workers in a variety of fields including journalism. One of the fields was trucking.

Over the summer, the California Trucking Association actually went to the Supreme Court to fight AB5 and allow owners and operators to use independent contractors. The CTA listed 70,000 owner operators. In the years since AB5, Ubers have become scarcer and more expensive, which is what the law was actually designed to do, but the consequences to the trucking industry have been far worse albeit invisible to most people until now. While truckers are still protected from AB5, many in the industry are not willing to bet their future on SCOTUS.

AB5 was not only the assault on the trucking industry by California Democrats who were aggressively trying to unionize the industry and to impose environmental regulations on it.

It was not, nor was said assault limited to California or ever more onerous “Save Gaia!” measures. The willful destruction of the trucking industry is multifarious and complex, from the implementation of nearly incomprehensible tangle of hours-worked limitations to electronic-log requirements to the absurd Regen mandate, which is my personal fave. Regen is so pluperfect an encapsulation of FederalGovCo stupidity as to beggar belief. To wit:

There’s no such thing as a good time for downtime, especially when it’s unexpected. And one issue many fleet drivers don’t plan for is forced regens.

If you haven’t experienced this issue yet, consider yourself lucky. A forced regen occurs when soot builds up inside the diesel particulate filter (DPF) to the point that the vehicle is no longer operable. When this happens, a driver has to pull over and initiate a self-cleaning process that can take up to 40 minutes — valuable time that could have been spent on the road.

If that sounds confusing, it really isn’t. The DPF traps the soot; the DPF gets full; driver must pull over IMMEDIATELY for a “forced regen” when the warning light comes on, lest severe damage be done to the engine of a truck he just paid 150k or a good bit more to purchase.

Now, here’s where a sensible person’s head will start to spin like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist. Know what a “forced regen” is? Why, nothing other than the process of ALL THE PARTICULATES AND SOOT THE FILTER REMOVED FROM THE ATMOSPHERE BEING BLOWN BACK OUT INTO THE ATMOSPHERE AGAIN. Only instead of it being done gradually, over a wide area, the gunk is expelled all at once, in a single spot. Whenever you’ve seen a big rig sitting on the side of the highway, a thick column of smoke belching skyward from the stacks, what you’re witnessing is the hand of FederalGovCo in action, just another Superstate Success Story™.

Ahh, but let’s not be offering any congratulations or humble thanks to our Lords and Masters on another Job Well Done quite yet, folks. Because as always, there’s more.

Last year, the California Air Resources Board issued a press release boasting that it had taken a “bold step to reduce truck pollution”. The bold step required switching to electric trucks.

“We are showing the world that we can move goods, grow our economy and finally dump dirty diesel,” Jared Blumenfeld, California’s Secretary for Environmental Protection, sneered.

Oh, is THAT what you think you’re “showing the world”? Because what the world is actually seeing looks not at ALL like what you just said. But hey, you do you, Poindexter. Live your truth, by all means. The snickering you’re hearing only means that we’re mighty impressed by your achievements, that’s all. Awestruck, even. Carry on.

While the ultimate truck ban was scheduled for 2045, an initial phase-in of 5% to 9% begins in 2024. Last year, California’s DMV began refusing to register thousands of trucks with an estimated 100,000 trucks under threat. With “green” trucks costing $70,000 more, this was a non-starter for already troubled independent owner-operators and even larger companies.

That was part of the plan.

Well, of course it was. These oozing chancres are always and forever working a Plan, a trait not limited to just the Califrutopia-localized sub-genus of the Rodentia Bureaucraticus species either. Bad as the worthless parasites have made our national situation already, the one certainty is that things are going to get much, much worse. That’s what they are, it’s what they do.

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