Herald-Whig View

Shortage of drivers stalling trucking industry

Posted: Apr. 13, 2017 11:20 am

A NATIONAL and local shortage of truck drivers means that hundreds of jobs with starting pay averaging about $800 a week are going unfilled.

Phil Steinkamp, head instructor at John Wood Community College's truck driver training program, said he trains between 70 and 75 truckers each year. But he adds that companies in and around Quincy say they could use another 200 or more drivers.

Dot Transportation Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Dot Foods, is trying to increase the incentive for local people to consider the occupation. It announced earlier this week that it is increasing the amount of scholarship funding from $2,000 to $3,000 to help students pay for truck driver training at JWCC.

In addition, scholarship recipients who graduate, go to work at Dot and stay with the company for at least three years will be reimbursed for the entire cost of their training.

Pat Stendback, corporate driver recruiting manager for Dot Transportation, said the company wanted to "make it a little easier" for those who take the schooling.

The shortage of truck drivers continues to worsen. The American Trucking Association reported a national shortage of 48,000 truckers in 2015, a shortfall that has increased the last two years. ATA also estimates that it will take nearly 90,000 new truckers each year just to meet a rising demand and replace those who are leaving the industry.

For example, the trucking industry has seen demand rise as more Americans buy online and need purchases shipped to their homes. Nearly 70 percent of all freight in the United States moves on trucks. The ATA said 10.5 billion tons of freight moved last year. Yet the truck driver median age is 49, compared to 42 for the average worker.

Most important, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual salary for drivers with commercial licenses was $40,260 in May 2015. The ATA reports that drivers working for private fleets can earn up to $73,000 per year. Lifestyle always has been a concern, but drivers have a variety of options. Some wish to remain close to home and sleep in their own beds. Others are willing to handle long-haul jobs that may take them to distant locations, for which they get higher pay.

Steinkamp said students in the driving sequence normally have jobs lined up by graduation day. Some companies start recruiting drivers during the first week of the eight-week course, meaning well-paying jobs are available.

Clearly, finding enough qualified drivers to meet demand remains a challenge trucking companies must continue to address to be able to grow.

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