While many sectors have been hit hard by the recent economic downturn, trucking jobs are recovering quicker than most, according to the state of logistics report from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals. Though the volume of goods transported by truck in the US did decline during the recession, increased activity by manufacturers and wholesalers is beginning to bump that figure back up to pre-recession levels. And with a driver shortage last year, the trucking industry was actually forced to shift some of its volume to rail in order to meet its obligations.
In November 2012, the American Trucking Association estimated that the current long-haul trucking driver shortage totaled at least 20,000 drivers. They reported that 90 percent of the employers they surveyed reported they were unable to find enough qualified drivers to fill all available positions.
Responding to the Driver Shortage
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects overall growth of 21 percent in tractor trailer driving jobs between 2010 and 2020. Since the trucking market nationwide is huge, that’s significant, representing about 330,000 new jobs. This figure doesn’t even take into account the fact that many current drivers are in their 50s or older, and likely looking to retire within the next decade. According to the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, the amount of new drivers getting trained each year to fill vacancies in the trucking industry barely accounts for 10 percent of total demand.
This combination of increased demand for drivers, a retiring workforce, and low training rates is putting a lot of pressure on employers to recruit and retain new drivers. Some companies are offering drivers cash bonuses and prizes such as boats and vacations to refer fellow drivers who switch to their firms. Base pay is rising, and many trucking companies are guaranteeing drivers more time at home. Firms are offering generous 401(k)s, stock options, healthcare packages, and other perks. Truck stops now have massage therapists and Wi-Fi computer technology. “It’s almost like they’re athletes being drafted out of school,” says Larry Caringi, placement director at Smith & Solomon, who says some students go from being unemployed to, six weeks later, earning at a rate of $50,000 a year.