Unemployment continues to hover between 8 and 9%, yet it’s estimated 150,000 jobs, starting at $30,000+ per year, remain unfilled. There’s a truck driver shortage in America. Bob Costello, chief economist with the American Trucking Association (ATA), said, “I am hearing from companies daily saying, ‘I can’t find enough drivers.’ Some of that is quality versus quantity. They may not be finding the quality they want.

In an IBJ article, Costello also states, “Driver turnover rose to 89 percent in the third quarter of 2011, the highest since 2008 and the fourth consecutive quarter of increases, according to data from the American Trucking Associations. That’s mostly because new regulations and job prospects in other industries are creating a “quality shortage” of available workers.”

How can this be?

  • Many experienced older drivers are retiring.
  • Young people are less interested in a job as restrictive as driving.
  • The frustrations, dealing with traffic, time away from home, and living on the road keep many away.
  • Hours of Service regulations — less hours per driver creates a need for more drivers.
  • Pre-employment screening has intensified, including criminal and driving record checks, eliminating candidates.
  • The trucking industry continues to grow.

Is there more to this?

I contacted Jeremy Reymer, President and CEO of Driving Ambition, a premier CDL driver staffing company serving Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee for over 10 years for his views.

Mr. Reymer’s opinion is that the problem is systemic. He has a solution, but doesn’t believe the industry is ready to hear it – yet. According to him, the problem is in the first year of employment. Because insurance rates are prohibitive for the first year, new drivers usually sign contracts that partner them with trainers and reduce the trainee’s pay by as much as 60% in the first year. After that year, a CDL driver can expect to make $50-80,000 per year, but in that first year, it may be under $30,000. 30K for the first year on the job doesn’t sound too bad, does it? So why do over 40% of new CDL drivers quit within the first year? They’re never home. They’re overworked, and they’re underpaid. It’s been called the “year of misery.” Why is this? It’s in part because the margins are so close in the trucking industry, along with the reticence of insurers to cover inexperienced drivers.

Currently, new drivers will invest a minimum of $2,000 securing a CDL, but it doesn’t stop there. Many sign a 1-year binding contract with a firm to get the
1-year of experience required by the insurers.

What’s Jeremy’s answer? Change the CDL training and certification requirements. Establish training regardless of duration or cost, which qualifies graduates to be insured. Eliminate the year of misery by preparing drivers to the insurers’ satisfaction, and the industry will go a long way in reducing the shortage of drivers.

Do you need a job? If you have the time and money to invest in a CDL, and are willing to be away from home and work for reduced pay for the first year, trucking may be for you.

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