The American Trucking Associations estimates that America will need 90,000 new truck drivers on the road every year for the next decade to keep up with transport and shipping demands.
Some of the issues at the root of the problem include low unemployment rates, the lifestyle of living on the road, and the pay.
“The truck driver shortage is being driven by a lot of things,” Jeff Shefchik, president of Paper Transport Inc., said. “The low unemployment rate throughout the country , it’s even lower in Wisconsin. Also the truck driving job is a challenging job.”
Fox Valley Technical College graduates about 600 students from their truck driving program every year with a wide age range of students. Many of them are sent by companies willing to pay for their training.
Sam Eustice, an instructor at the college, says one of the barriers for young students isn’t the lifestyle or pay, but a federal law that doesn’t allow truck drivers to cross state lines while on the road until they’re 21 years-old. By then, high school graduates have chosen other careers.
“One thing we’re trying to do, we’re trying to get down to the high schools, because what happens is right now you’re typically can’t go out of state until you’re at least 21 years-old, so you’re 18 years-old, you want to drive a truck, you gotta find something else to do for four or five years,” Eustice explained.
Eustice hopes to see that age regulation change.
Meanwhile, the industry is trying to change what seems most unappealing about the job.
“In order to get drivers in the door, in order to get drivers in our trucks we’re going to have to increase pay, and that pay is going to be passed on to our customers and ultimately to consumers, but we’re also looking at changing the job,” Shefchik said. “How do you make the job more attractive, how do you get the drivers home more frequently, a little bit easier on the family life.”
While there can be drawbacks to living on the road, there are also benefits.
Eustice says he has seen former students become drivers who take time to get out and explore the more scenic areas the job can take them, while technology like FaceTime keeps them connected to their family. There’s also more flexible schedules.
“This has never been a better time to get into a trucking career,” Eustice said. “The pay is getting better, lifestyle is getting better, technology. A lot of big benefits of the job that way, lifestyle-wise.”
Fox Valley Technical College sees 96% of its students find months within 6 months of graduating.
The Wisconsin Technical College System is also expanding their trucking program to more campuses to help meet more federal training requirements that drivers will need starting in 2020.