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The “driver shortage” should be called a “driver squeeze”

Truck driver stops to have his truck maintained 


Early in my career as a business journalist, covering the metals industry, I was advised not to use the word “shortage” to describe a market. Other terms like “squeeze” were preferred. And it made sense: classic economics would dictate that what was perceived as a shortage was really only a market imbalance that the pricing mechanism would correct by attracting new supply or decreasing demand.

When OOIDA discounts the talk of a “driver shortage,” and instead says it is an issue of pay and working conditions, the organization is reflecting this approach. But if they want to say that, then presumably they will be consistent when they’re trying to get a vehicle repaired and can’t find a diesel mechanic because of the “diesel mechanic shortage.” There is clearly a diesel mechanic squeeze, and the numbers of new mechanics aren’t meeting demand. But if there truly can’t be a shortage, that it is just a function of the pricing mechanism, then there is no diesel mechanic shortage, just like there’s no driver shortage.

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.