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Truck Driver Shortage Nearing Record Levels

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Driving a truck is among the loneliest occupations in the United States. The hours are long, and drivers are forced to be away from home for days at a time. The trucking industry faces a shortage of drivers over the next few years. To compound the problem, freight is growing at a faster rate than truckers are being recruited. The combination is going to increase the shortage of qualified truck drivers to the lowest number that has ever been recorded. The shortage could be as large as 300,000 drivers by the year 2014. That represents a full 10 percent of the nation’s truck driving workforce. Replacing the number of older drivers who are retiring will require an additional 85,000 new drivers per year for seven years.

How to recruit more truck drivers

As the freight to available driver ratio increases, freight companies are becoming worried. The situation is so bad that many long-haul trucking companies are already losing business to air and rail alternatives. Several approaches to this problem are being implemented. One of the possibilities is to allow drivers between 18 and 20 years of age to become long-haul truckers. Currently, a driver must be 21 to get a commercial trucking license. The problem is that most young people who don’t choose to attend college have already received some other type of vocational training before they’re old enough to become a truck driver. If younger people are allowed to attend truck driving schools, they will have to take extra training before they can receive their CDL.

Another possible solution is to train drivers in Puerto Rico. Unemployment is at 13 percent in this United States territory, and there are many young people who are enthusiastic about becoming truck drivers. For a yearly salary of about $26,000, these drivers work three weeks in a row. After that, they’re given airplane tickets to fly home for a week. They don’t earn as much as U.S. drivers, but they only work three weeks out of the month. Two years after a truck driving school was established in Mayaguez, 5,000 commercial drivers had been trained.

A few truck driving schools are offering scholarships in hopes of filling the increasing void of over-the-road drivers. MTA Training Centers of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and 1-800-Drivers of Houston, Texas, are giving one week per quarter to people who submit a 100-word essay on why they want to become a truck driver.

These tactics will hopefully replenish the ranks of long-haul truckers. The shortage will only get worse as many drivers are over 55, and most retire when they turn 65.

Is your company facing a driver shortage? How are you recruiting more truck drivers?