More Trucking Jobs Go Unfilled

  • More Trucking Jobs Go Unfilled

    With nearly a quarter of a million job openings nationwide for long-haul truck drivers, the call of the open road is going largely unheeded. During these tough economic times with layoffs, pay cuts, and high unemployment, trucking companies are still struggling to fill their open positions. As David Heller, director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Association, tells CNN money, “Nobody wants to drive a truck.”

    The demand for truckers is steadily increasing, up from the 1.5 million drivers on the road now. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 330,100 additional trucking jobs are expected to be added to the rolls between 2010 and 2020, representing an overall increase of 20%. But these positions are difficult to fill, and even harder to keep filled. The pay isn’t bad: Truckers earn a median annual wage of $37,930, which is $4,000 more than the median wage for all jobs, according to the BLS. The top 10% of truck drivers make more than $58,000 per year. So why do so many long-haul trucking jobs remain unfilled?

    It’s difficult to get certified.

    The biggest hurdle for the unemployed is getting a commercial driver’s license. The training course to learn those skills can take up to eight weeks to complete and cost about $6,000. ”Drivers are put under intense scrutiny before they get into the industry, and for good reason,” said Brett Aquila, trucker and creator of the blog TruckingTruth. “It’s incredibly risky putting someone behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound truck with your company’s name on it.”

    The long-haul lifestyle isn’t easy.

    Truckers often find themselves living for weeks at a time in the cramped confines of the back of the truck. ”You have a gigantic culture shock when someone is suddenly living on the road in a space the size of a walk-in closet,” said Aquila. “Then you have the pressure, the erratic sleep patterns, and the time away from home, family, and friends.”

    At the same time, as the economy stages a gradual recovery, more new positions are becoming available. ”When people start to spend more money, that means there’s more freight to move,” said Heller. “When shelves need to be stocked, trucks start rolling. There’s not a thing you own that has not been on a truck at some point.”

    Several of the largest long haul trucking companies in the U.S. are hiring. Schneider National, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Swift Transportation and Werner Enterprises are aggressively recruiting drivers. Derek Leathers, president and chief operating officer at Werner, said that his company has about 100 open long-haul truck driving positions. The current shortage of truckers has forced his company to work much harder than it used to in order to fill these positions, spending more money on advertising and additional recruiting staff.

    Trucking can be good work, and even highly lucrative, but it will never be an easy choice, says Leo Wilkins, an independent long-haul trucker from St. Charles, Minn., who’s been driving for 40 years. Wilkins says he can gross up to $300,000 per year. After paying for fuel, insurance, truck payments and maintenance he can clear as much as $150,000 in take-home pay, as long as he spends most of his time on the highway, living in his customized sleeper. ”I stay out on the road for six weeks at a time,” he said. “In this business, you can’t be running home every weekend if you’re going to make money.”

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