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Young Drivers Wanted: Filling the Employment Gap in Trucking Left by Retirees

According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), “the trucking industry is the lifeblood of the U.S. economy.” In the United States, close to 70% of all freight tonnage is transported via trucks. To support this, the industry requires over 3 million drivers. That said, the ATA has suggested that there will be a shortage of approximately 300,000 drivers within a decade. This shortage is said to be a result of tighter regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Administration’s Safety Measurement System and the gap created by an aging workforce. In fact, projected figures indicate that only 17.3% of drivers will be 55 to 64 years old in 2014. This is a downward trend, falling 4.7% from 2004.

To combat this, trucking companies are looking at the new generation of drivers. A survey conducted by the Transport Capital Partners found that “82% of carriers are willing to support allowing younger, properly trained drivers to enter the driving pool.” This is in contrast to another statistic that shows that only a third of carriers use entry-level drivers. The survey suggests that in the future “51% of the carriers expect to be utilizing inexperienced, entry-level drivers and training them.” This is an encouraging finding, and this surge in vacant positions could be a potential solution to the level of unemployment among younger job seekers.

Moreover, the salary in this industry is encouraging as the median annual wage is around $38,200. Those within the top 10 percent in the field take home $58,910. With the gap growing due to retirement, carriers are looking for new and determined drivers to fill it. For those interested in entering into the trucking industry, here are some things to consider that will land you at the top of the hiring pool.

Clean Driving Record

To improve on-road safety, the FMCSA quantifies the performance of carriers and drivers using the Safety Measurement System. Specifically, the SMS looks at the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) to properly assess these individuals. Job seekers interested in a career in trucking should be willing to adhere to these standards. One of the BASICs is Unsafe Driving. As such, candidates need to consider their own driving records. Since insurance premiums are high for younger drivers, carriers will be looking to hire individuals that have impeccable driving records free of infractions.

Training

All drivers working in the trucking industry require a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Individuals with a CDL are able to drive tow trucks, tractor-trailers, and buses, among other heavy vehicles. With this license comes important training that is key to landing a job in this field.

The Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) is a helpful organization that represents over 200 truck driver training sites in the United States. In fact, 50,000 students graduate each year from member programs. Interested parties can check out the CVTA’s website to locate truck driving schools and access further information. Another similar organization is the National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools. It promotes public education for the transportation industry and operates in seven distinct regional areas of the United States. Each of these regions features a directory of colleges that have programs for truck driving.

Lastly, the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) is an additional resource to check out. It works closely with carriers, truck driver training schools, the insurance industry, and the government. It is a nonprofit organization that helps develop curriculum and standards within the industry. Both entry-level and veteran drivers can make use of PTDI to further their training and careers.

Flexibility

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) describes the work environment of a driver as a “major lifestyle choice” as it requires them to “be away from home for days or weeks at a time.” Job seekers should keep this in mind when pursuing a career in this industry. The ideal candidate will be flexible and able to work the hours set by carriers without exceeding the standards determined by the FMCSA. For example, drivers may work up to 14 straight hours and must not exceed 60 hours within a week. Additionally, nights, weekends and holidays are often forfeit in this occupation. Individuals who enjoy travelling and being on the road will benefit more from this career than those who prefer sticking close to home.

Health & Fitness

Between the lack of healthy food choices on the road and the sedentary nature of the occupation, truck drivers face the difficulty of staying in shape while on the job. Individuals who are motivated and more health-conscious are more likely to succeed due to their ability to endure these obstacles. Furthermore, the BLS reports that federal regulations “do not allow people to become truck drivers if they have a medical condition that may interfere with their ability to operate a truck, such as high blood pressure or epilepsy.” As such, job seekers should consider their own level of fitness and dedication to staying healthy when looking at truck driving as a profession.

Despite the long hours and obstacles truck drivers face, a career in the transportation industry can be extremely rewarding. It is a key profession that connects businesses and allows the individual to see the country around them while on the road. It is an industry that is seeing growth and has many prospects for new job seekers.

By considering the aforementioned information on trucking, interested candidates will be that much closer to starting a fulfilling and financially secure occupation in transportation.