California Agriculture Truck Driver Study

UC Berkeley Labor Centerand Steve Viscelli

 

Overview

The California Agriculture Truck Driver Study — led by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, in partnership with the UC Davis Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety and the UC Merced Community and Labor Center — will provide the first in-depth look at the labor market for agricultural truck drivers in California. The study will examine unique aspects of agricultural trucking in the state and provide policy recommendations to address longstanding driver recruitment and retention issues that have worsened since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Why now?

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented historic challenges to freight movement in California and nationally. The pandemic created some novel and acute problems, including container shortages and unprecedented levels of port congestion, while exacerbating others, such as long-standing labor supply problems in trucking. Overall, the result has been dramatic increases in the cost of moving the state’s freight, including agricultural products.

One of the main concerns raised within the state and nationally is the lack of truck drivers. California’s agriculture producers have been facing challenges recruiting and retaining truck drivers for decades, which the COVID-19 pandemic only intensified as part of broader supply chain disruptions. But views of the causes and solutions of the trucking industry’s labor supply problems vary widely. Unfortunately, little good data exists to help us assess what government and businesses can do to foster the development of a robust pipeline of new workers into the industry and incentivize the retention of safe and experienced drivers.

As such, the goal of the study is to help state agencies, industry stakeholders, and the public better understand the labor market for truck drivers hauling agricultural products within and out of California.

 

How will the study be conducted?

Dr. Steve Viscelli of the University of Pennsylvania will lead a team of researchers conducting surveys and in-depth interviews with more than 500 truck drivers, including Spanish-speaking drivers, along with agricultural shippers, trucking carriers and other stakeholders. They will also observe workers hauling a variety of crops and visit processing and packing facilities that handle multiple crops to understand the unique characteristics of the job.

The driver survey is a critical research instrument in this study, as the view of truck drivers themselves is deeply lacking in the current discussion. In fact, the last representative survey of long-haul truck drivers’ attitudes on their work was conducted in 1997. The last survey data on agricultural drivers (collected in Florida) was also collected in the 1990s. Since that time, the industry has experienced tremendous changes.

The study will profile the work of inbound and outbound drivers holding a Class A Commercial Drivers License, which is the license most commonly required by employers. We will focus on drivers hauling dairy, lettuce, citrus, strawberries, tomatoes, carrots, and almonds, which will provide us with a wide range of trucking services used by California’s agricultural shippers. Drivers hauling other crops will also be included in the survey at processing and packing facilities that handle multiple crops.

Finally, we will place the survey results within the broader industry and national truck driver labor market and provide policy recommendations and best practices to improve recruitment, reduce turnover, and stabilize the industry.

 

Contact

For media inquiries or other questions on this study, please contact Van Nguyen at vann@berkeley.edu.