During a struggling economy and high unemployment, carriers are finding it very difficult to hire young drivers willing to drive long hauls over the road. As the economy continues to recover and shipping demands for goods increases, the situation is only going to worsen, possibly to the point of becoming a disastrous shortage of truck drivers in an industry that carries about 80% of all cargo in the United States.
How bad has it gotten? Well, to take it from the theoretical to the practical, just look at Matt Handte of Tribe Transportation, who added ten new trucks but so far have only been able to fill them with four new drivers, "It blows my mind that I'm looking for that many people and I can't find them..." He can't find just six drivers in the Savannah Georgia area? Okay, not a community the size of Atlanta but certainly not a small town either.
Is truck driving just not a desirable career anymore? The short answer is no, or at least it shouldn’t be. Truck drivers make good money. In fact, when you compare the money that can be made with the time and cost of the education needed to enter the industry, they make great money. The average time and cost to get a commercial driver's license (CDL) is about one month and around $3,000 dollars. The average driver starts at about $37,000 per year, with many drivers making over $50,000 per year. At the top, long-time and particularly owner operator truck drivers can clear $100,000 annually. That's "clear" folks, as in gross profit after expenses with no college education and the tens of thousands of dollars required.
Arguably, an over the road trucking job is not for everyone. It can entail long hours and a lot of time away from home. But what about the other side of the coin - getting to travel and see this great country of ours while building financial independence? Are there really no young people that would find this appealing? With all the hardships that small town America is currently experiencing, we're talking about true financial security here.
Bottom line, U.S. trucking companies can create over 100,000 jobs per year for the next 5 years. However, with more and more older truckers retiring and less than 10% of the needed new drivers currently being trained, it is hard to see how the carriers are going to fill the jobs they are able to create. With jobs being one of the top priorities in this administration and with trucking being able to put a significant and ongoing dent in the jobless rate, perhaps it might be time to look at some of the regulations that are contributing to the driver shortage.
So what do you think Mr. Obama? Wouldn't helping to solve the worst truck driver shortage in history while creating over 400,000 new jobs over the next four years be worth at least a look? Can we maybe get a trucking school grant program going? It would certainly be much cheaper than a college Pell grant and would almost assure an instant job after graduation.