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Another Voice: Industry needs to confront shortage of truck drivers

By Steve Balczerak and Christopher Duquin

Take a quick moment and look around you in your home or office. Just about everything within reach – everything that you’ve bought, used, worn or eaten – has been on a truck at some point. Most of us rarely think about the trucking industry when we’re weaving in between semis on the Thruway, but the truth is that trucking plays an integral role in every one of our lives.

The level of importance of trucks to everyday American life is becoming more and more pronounced as we speak. Because, while the economy is once again growing, meaning more goods that need to get to consumers spending more money, there are fewer and fewer people signing up to actually drive them to where they need to be.

According to an analysis released by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) in October 2015, the shortage of truck drivers in the United States is nearly 48,000, and could expand further due to industry growth and a retiring workforce. The current average driver age in the industry is 49. Trucking also continues to struggle to attract all segments of the population, as just 5.8 percent of truck drivers are women.

Today’s opportunities are “not your father’s” trucking jobs, either. While there is significant demand for long-haul drivers, many of the trucking jobs that need to be filled are one-day trips – meaning, you sleep in your own bed at night.

One of the key issues recognized by the national logistics industry is truckers’ quality of life, and there is an understanding in the industry that the long-haul lifestyle is appealing to fewer and fewer people.

Pay is another critical issue, one that the industry is addressing. Truck driving, in large part due to the skills needed and the lifestyle accepted, has historically been a well-paying job. With demand currently exceeding supply, the industry is continually looking at ways to further strengthen the attractiveness of the job, and pay is a key component of that analysis.

Increased pay, paid education and signing bonuses to attract drivers are becoming more prevalent. According to payscale.com, the average salary nationwide for a tractor trailer driver is $56,443.

Another significant finding in the ATA’s report was that over the next decade, the United States will need 898,000 new truck drivers – 89,000 per year – due to retiring workers and industry growth. That’s an awful lot of people who need to be enticed to move into this career in order to meet market demand. For anyone looking for a steady, well-paying, in-demand job – one that has a lot to offer as far as job and life experience, now is as good a time as ever to look at trucking.

Steve Balczerak is general manager of Lincoln Moving & Storage. Christopher Duquin is owner of Stevens Truck School.