We’ve discussed the tech shortage numerous times before. Filling these tech positions with trained and reliable workers is the #1 concern of auto repair shop owners and managers. Unfortunately, besides other economic and generational factors, a crisis is impacting workers throughout America in areas that previously were not so affected. This is the opioid crisis, and it’s devastating communities and individuals with predictably bad consequences for business and the economy as well.
What Is the Opioid Crisis?
Opioids are a class of drugs, including heroin, prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Heroin has been around for years as a recreational drug and life ruiner, but doctors have increasingly prescribed opioids as painkillers in recent years. Unfortunately, these drugs are very addictive, and people are misusing them. As a result, overdose rates have skyrocketed. The daily mortality rate from opioids in America is 116 people, and the CDC estimates that the Opioid Crisis costs the U.S. $78.5 billion a year in health care, addiction treatment, policing, and lost productivity.
How Does the Opioid Crisis Affect Auto Repair Shops?
The crisis affects the auto repair industry in three major ways:
The opioid crisis has killed off workers – In 2015 alone, 33,000 Americans died of opioid overdose. In 2016, 42,249 people died. Almost half of these deaths involved the misuse of prescription drugs. By comparison the total number of deaths due to overdose in 2010 was 16,000. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.
The populations worst affected by the opioid crisis are rural Americans, whites, Native Americans, and the working class.
The opioid crisis has made workers unemployable – The lucky number of people who survive opioid addiction find it much harder to get a job because of their history. Auto repair shop managers are naturally reluctant to give a known addict a job as they’ve proven unreliable in the past and could relapse any time.
The opioid crisis is affecting your current workers’ performance – Many addicted auto techs and other workers are still on the job, but they are much more likely to underperform, miss work, make mistakes on the job, and create problems in the workplace because of their addiction. Dealing with workers who have addiction issues is challenging and draining for managers as they are often in denial about their own behavior and addiction and get angry when they are confronted with it.
Because of the opioid crisis auto repair shop managers have a drastically reduced pool of workers to pull from. This makes finding good workers even harder and is unlikely to improve in the near future either, as the crisis seems to be only worsening. Currently many synthetic opioids are coming into the U.S. over the Mexican border. In 2017 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency and unveiled a 5-point strategy for dealing with the problem. This is not a magic answer, but assigning more resources to fighting drug trafficking, over prescribing, and fighting addiction at the local level is essential.
Most auto shop owners and managers tend to focus on what they can do individually to make their shops better and more productive, but the opioid crisis is bigger in scope than other employee problems. Being aware of the crisis and acting to pressure leaders to create solutions are both essential to solving it. Up until now the opioid crisis has not gotten the same scrutiny as other drug epidemics. That’s why we all need to make some noise before it ruins more lives and kills off even more of the skilled (and unskilled) workers we need to keep our businesses and our economy running.