Make us your home page
Instagram
Working | Trucking vacancies

Trucking companies short on drivers despite high unemployment

Trucking companies short on drivers despite high unemployment

Despite a national unemployment rate topping 8 percent, trucking companies are struggling to recruit and retain enough drivers due to a host of factors.

The shortage dates back to the years leading up to the Great Recession, when well-paying construction jobs were plentiful and the industry had problems finding replacements for all of the veteran drivers who were retiring. That there remain hundreds of thousands of driver vacancies today speaks in part to the waning popularity of the profession made famous by such movies as Smokey and the Bandit.

"You have drivers retiring every day," said Charlie Gray, owner of Carolina Trucking Academy in Raleigh, N.C. "For every driver that goes out the back door, you better have a driver coming in the front door. There's not a lot of people coming in the front door."

The shortage is good news for those looking for work in the industry.

Companies desperate for quality drivers have begun offering sign-on bonuses, higher salaries and safety bonuses. And yet there's still a national shortage conservatively estimated at 200,000 workers, said David Heller, director of safety and policy at the Truckload Carriers Association.

An aging workforce, a requirement that long-haul drivers be at least 21 years old and new federal safety regulations have all played a role in the current shortage.

The aging population of truck drivers, in particular, has become a bigger issue than anyone expected. Demographic changes mean there simply aren't as many potential men under the age of 35 as there were in the baby boomer generation, said Charles Clowdis, managing director of transportation industry services at IHS Global Insight.

Younger workers who traditionally may have gone into trucking choose other occupations over a life that requires long stints away from home. Since a college education is not required for truck driving but truck drivers have to be 21 to cross state lines, trucking companies lose potential employees to other industries, trade schools or the military.

Although the industry is suffering from a shortage of all types of drivers, most of the open positions are for truckload carriers, which transport goods over long distances. "The job of being an over-the-road truck driver is difficult," Clowdis said. "You're away from home; it's somewhat of an unset schedule; you may leave on Monday, get somewhere Thursday, and Friday get sent in the total opposite direction. That's the segment that's hurting the most."

New government regulations limiting drivers' hours and monitoring drivers for safety violations have exacerbated the shortage, said Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations, which put the industry's annual turnover rate at 88 percent in December. "Some companies say they could actually add more equipment if only they could find more drivers," he said.

The new rules, which went into effect in late 2010, are forcing companies to hire more workers from a smaller pool of potential drivers with no blemishes on their safety record.

Costello said the steep cost of training, averaging $4,000 to $6,000 for four to six weeks of driver-training school, is a barrier for the pool of potential workers who would be most interested in trucking. While many nationwide companies retroactively reimburse newly hired drivers monthly for the cost of schooling, potential drivers still have to front the money to the school or try to qualify for student loans.

Sources of federal funding for truck-driver training through the Workforce Investment Agency have also dried up because of budget cuts, said Cindy Atwood, deputy director of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association.

Still, at a time when many professions offer little job security, truck driving is close to a sure thing for those who meet the qualifications. "You can take a person making minimum wage and put them into school, and four to six weeks later they will be making anywhere between $38,000 (and) $40,000 entry-level, with benefits," said Atwood. "That's a pretty good story. And that job can't be outsourced."

Trucking companies short on drivers despite high unemployment

Trucking companies short on drivers despite high unemployment 06/30/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 1:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus

    Retail

    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.
[SCOTT KEELER  |  TIMES]

  3. Boho Hunter will target fashions in Hyde Park

    Business

    Boho Hunter, a boutique based in Miami's Wynwood District, will expand into Tampa with its very first franchise.

    Palma Canaria bags will be among the featured items at Boho Hunter when it opens in October. Photo courtesy of Boho Hunter.
  4. Gallery now bringing useful art to Hyde Park customers

    Business

    HYDE PARK — In 1998, Mike and Sue Shapiro opened a gallery in St. Petersburg along Central Ave., with a majority of the space dedicated to Sue's clay studio.

     As Sue Shapiro continued to work on her pottery in St. Petersburg, her retail space grew and her studio shrunk. Now Shapiro's is bringing wares like these to Hyde Park Village. Photo courtesy of Shapiro's.
  5. Appointments at Raymond James Bank and Saint Leo University highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers

    Business

    Banking

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Jackson will oversee all of Raymond James Bank's operational business elements, risk management and strategic planning functions. Kackson joins Raymond James Bank after senior …

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. [Company handout]