despite recession, thousands of truck driver jobs go unfilled
Despite high rates of unemployment and concerns about outsourcing American jobs to foreign countries, transportation companies in Texas say they are having a very difficult time finding qualified truck drivers, despite high pay, and the fact that trucking is a job which can never been shipped overseas, 1200 WOAI news reports.
John Esparza, President and CEO of the Texas Motor Transport Association, says one reason is the demands for drivers in the Eagle Ford Shale, but the depth of the driver shortage goes well beyond the oil and gas fields.
"We have instances which are quite plentiful where there is equipment parked in yards, but there are no drivers available to drive it," he said. "The prospects of fixing this problem for trucking any time soon are not good. I think there are a lot of factors at play."
Esparza says the trucking profession has a greater percentage of its professional drivers in the 46 to 64 year old range.
"A good number of them, over 62.4% in Texas, are between those ages," he said.
That means truckers who entered the profession back in the days of 'Convoy' and 'Cannonball Run,' when truckers were considered the 'Knights of the Road and were played in movies by sex symbols like Burt Reynolds, are aging out of the profession, and there are few younger truckers out there to take their place.
Esparza cites many factors for the lack of younger truckers.
One is tough federal regulations which disqualify many young people who may have minor drug offenses on their records from getting a commercial driver license, and the fact that you have to be 21 years old to become an interstate trucker.
"You have to be 21 before you can even be a truck driver," he said. "Kids today, they want to be satisfied now."
He says that many high school graduates who decide on a working career instead of college don't want to wait three years before they can start making a steady income, and instead decide to join the military, or move into professions like plumber and electrician, where they can start work as a journeyman right away.
He says federal rules limiting the number of hours that a truck driver can drive in a week has also sparked the need for more truck drivers.
Also, during the days before the start of the recession, potential truck drivers entered the booming construction field instead.
Esparza says many young people are not attracted by a profession which has them away from home for long stretches of time, and in many cases pegs their potential earnings to the wildly shifting price of fuel.
He says the result of this lack of truck drivers is the same as when any commodity is scarce. The price goes up.
"What the Great American truck driver has going for him right now, as a qualified driver becomes more of a free agent than he ever was," he said. "The money is very good right now in trucking."
That means transportation companies have to pay more to hire drivers, and those costs will be passed along to consumers as part of the price we have to pay for items which are delivered by truck.
Which is everything.