Friday, July 15, 2011

Trucking industry struggles to fill shortage of 100,000 drivers

This is the first time I have ever done this. With so many of our people unemployed, under-employed, or rendered unemployable at any job where kids are by being listed on state abuser lists, it appears there are truck driver jobs with a predicted INCREASE in demand. About $40 to 50K a year in pay.

The downside is, truck driving is an away-from-home job and you have to get the Commercial Drivers License (CDL). Further, if you have little experience, you will need a Truck Driving Course for about $6,000. If you have a bad driving record, or can't obey traffic laws- forget it.

Trucking industry struggles to fill shortage of 100,000 drivers
Published: Sat, July 16, 2011 @ 12:01 a.m.
By Karl Henkel

YOUNGSTOWN- Bob Costello says the trucking industry could have big problems in the coming years.

It has nothing to do with high gasoline prices.

It has everything to do with employment.

Costello, chief economist for Virginia-based American Trucking Association, expects a shortage of truckers to surpass 100,000 in the next few years as economic activity continues to pick up.

“We expect it to get as bad as it’s ever been,” he said. “Which is quite amazing in an economy with 9 percent unemployment.”

The issues are threefold:

The average age of a trucker is quite old — mid-to-late 50s — compared to other lines of work.

There are strict qualifications to break into the industry.

The job requires long hours and extended travel.

But Costello says drivers with clean records and who are willing to spend weeknights away from home can quickly qualify for a driving position that could net them a starting salary of approximately $40,000 a year.

Wages are one reason why Jim Catheline, admissions director at New Castle School of Trades, says the school has seen an increasing interest in obtaining a commercial drivers’ license.

“In some of the other fields, entry-level wages aren’t really that plentiful,” he said. “And you’ve got a lot of unemployed guys around here.”

NCST offers two courses: A six-week weekday course or a 15-weekend course for approximately $5,700.

But strict guidelines on driving records end many people’s hopes of becoming a driver before they start.

Catheline said those interested need not worry about spending unnecessary money on a class; NCST, like many driving schools, screens candidates before admission.

“That’s one of the first things we do,” Catheline said. “If we know we are going to have an employability issues, we don’t want to spin anyone’s wheels.”

Once a certified CDL, however, the restrictions continue. That’s another problem carriers have in retaining qualified drivers, said Rick Barringer, owner of Southwind Logistics, an Austintown subcontracting broker.

In Ohio, those who commit two or more serious traffic violations within a three-year period, trigger automatic suspensions of at least 60 days.

“In the last 12 to 13 years, we’ve had to let go too many drivers because of speeding tickets,” he said.

The more serious the offense, the more serious the penalty: First-time convictions for driving under the influence, leaving the scene of a traffic crash, using a vehicle during a felony or refusing to submit to alcohol testing result in a one-year automatic suspension.

The other growing problem, however, is that many don’t want a job with long hours and extended periods away from their families. “It’s a lifestyle,” said Rick Barringer, owner of Southwind Logistics, an Austintown subcontracting broker. “You live in a truck, you’re out on the road.

“A lot of people can’t handle that.”

For those who qualify and are dedicated to the job, Costello said the solid-paying jobs offer many opportunities.

“If you’re willing to work hard — within the limits of the law — it’s not a stretch to be making $50,000 within a few years,” he said.

Aside from the money, there are the location benefits. There are so few CDLs, which led directly to an annualized driver turnover rate of 75 percent in the first quarter of 2011, up from 39 percent a year earlier, according to the American Trucking Association.

With the demand for shipping expected to increase, carriers are more desperate than ever to find qualified workers, Costello said.

“They’ve told me, ‘If I can find a driver, I have trucks to put him in,’” he said.

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