Truck-driving jobs are among the fastest growing occupations in the nation, but fewer residents in the region have commercial driver's licenses, and transportation companies are struggling to attract qualified drivers, according to a Hamilton JournalNews/Middletown Journal analysis.
The U.S. trucking industry is expected to create more than 330,000 jobs by the end of the decade, but experts predict the shortage of drivers could almost reach 240,000 in the next 10 years because of industry growth, retirements, recent regulations and competition from other sources.
Trucking firms are scrambling to attract new drivers and to retain their current employees by offering bonuses, pay incentives and better working conditions. But life on the road can be a hard sell.
"Many of our members say they've got trucks, they've got freight, but they've got no drivers," said David Bartosic, spokesman with the Ohio Trucking Association.
Between 2010 and 2020, employment opportunities for drivers of heavy and tractor-trailer trucks are expected to grow to 1.93 million jobs from 1.6 million, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's employment projections.
During that period, the trucking industry is expected to create more jobs than all but seven other occupations. Those occupations include registered nurses (711,900 additional jobs), retail sales workers (706,800 jobs), home health aides (706,300 jobs), personal care aides (607,000 jobs) and office and other clerks (489,500).
3rd fastest job growth
The median annual wage of truck drivers was about $37,770 in 2010, the third highest compensation among the top 10 fastest-growing occupations, according to labor department data. Only registered nurses and post-secondary teachers had higher median annual wages, which were, $64,690 and $45,690, respectively.
But the middle-class pay and growing labor demand is not sufficiently increasing the supply of drivers.
The number of people with commercial driver's licenses dipped last year across the state and in Butler County, according to data from the Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles. It was the first time in at least a decade that the number of Ohioans with commercial driver's licenses dropped. Employment in transportation and trucking industries has also fallen this year in Ohio, according to labor department data.
At the current rate, the gap between the number of available tractor-trailer drivers and the U.S. labor demand is expected to widen to 239,000 people by 2022, according to an analysis by the Virginia-based American Trucking Associations.
The shortage of drivers is connected to the impending retirement of many current drivers, said Bartosic, with the Ohio Trucking Association. Freight tonnage also is on the rise as the economy rebounds, increasing the need for additional drivers, he said. Some drivers are leaving the industry in search of easier or better-paying work. And the December 2010 launch of the federal Compliance Safety Accountability program resulted in stricter requirements and regulations on drivers and freight companies.
The American Trucking Associations estimates that about 7 percent of drivers would create scoring problems through the federal safety-compliance program, which means they could lose their jobs or companies may be reluctant to hire them.
In 2011, about 89 percent of the 47,740 people with commercial drivers licenses in the Miami Valley had some sort of traffic violation on their driving records, according to state data. The program seeks to identify and filter out dangerous drivers and trucking companies.
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