Truck drivers also work long hours and the job can be physically demanding. Truckers often have to be away from their homes for long periods of time.
But the pay is good, and some drivers can earn between $40,000 to $60,000 if they stick with the job, said Donald Banks, training manager of the Ohio Business College Truck Driving Academy in Madison Twp.
Drivers get to see the country, and the demands of the job are getting easier because of new regulations and companies are improving their work conditions in order to attract and retain employees, he said. Companies also continue to provide signing bonuses, raises and other incentives to drivers to avoid turnover and lure new drivers.
"The job's a lot more regional than it used to be, and it's a lot more driver friendly, because they used to just throw you the keys and you'd go to work," he said. "Now we are a regulated industry, and drivers get home more often than they did."
A new career with high turnover
Banks said trucking jobs often appeal to older workers who need a new career. Many students who enroll in trucking school were laid off from the manufacturing sector, and the average age of enrolled students is about 54 years old, he said.
Many laid off workers are eligible for financial assistance to pay for school through the Workforce Investment Act. Part of the appeal of enrolling is that students are basically guaranteed a job if they graduate and pass the state certification test, Banks said.
"Every student who passes the state test has a job lined up through us," he said.
Industry experts said trucking firm must raise wages and improve their operations to attract and retain drivers. Truck drivers must be at least 21 years old, but firms can establish relationships with young people at community colleges and other venues to get them interested in the careers.
In an attempt to address both the driver shortage and high unemployment among military veterans, federal lawmakers passed new legislation that will allow military service members to transfer commercial driver's licenses they obtain while stationed in other states.
By law, commercial driver's licenses procured in other states are non-transferable. The new legislation exempts military members.
Ken Henderson, president of J.P. Transportation Company in Middletown, said while the company is currently at its staffing capacity, which is unusual, the industry itself faces a turnover of 100 percent on truckload carriers and is seeing a smaller employment pool compared to years ago.
"The average truck driver is in his 50s and our pool is kind of shrinking," he said. "Our drivers get home on the weekend, plus a couple of times during the week. I don't think we see it as bad as someone of the rest of the industry."
Dennis Weber, safety and compliance manager for Lairson Trucking in Hamilton, said the biggest problem facing small carriers with 100 trucks are less are having driver's recruited by larger companies.
The past 18 months or so have been particularly difficult to find drivers, as many will not commit to one place for the long haul, Weber said.
"You get the guy who works for one place for three months and feels the grass is greener somewhere else at quits and he goes there for two months and he doesn't like it there and then goes to another place," Weber said. "They're just bouncing around like a pinball."
Weber said he believes the shortage of people in the trucking field can be attributed to potential drivers not being able to pass a drug test or having too many points on their driver's license, meaning insurance companies won't insure them, Weber said.
Lairson Trucking would offer economic incentives to attract drivers except for one small detail.
"The rate (of pay) that you're getting is so deflated, you can't afford it," said Weber. "You can't just run them up and down the road to create a job for somebody."
LeRoy Strickland, 50, graduated from the Ohio Business College Trucking Driving Academy over the summer after serving 30 years in the military.
Strickland said he had several offers from trucking companies when he graduated, and he accepted a position with Maverick Transportation. He said some friends highly recommended the company, and he was impressed with its professionalism.
"It wasn't about the money for me, it was about the reputation of the company," he said. "They have an excellent safety record and the maintenance on their trucks is outstanding."
Paying for truck driver's training doesn't always work out for everyone, Weber said. Many drivers who earn their commercial driver's license won't get hired without two years verifiable tractor trailer experience, he said.
The solution some potential drivers find is applying at larger companies, who are self-insured.
"They'll hire somebody right out of school and teach them what they want to teach them but what they do when they hire you is, to keep you, they make you sign a contract ... that you're going to stay with them for a minimum of one year," Weber said. "Every week, a percentage of your paycheck goes in an escrow account. If you quit before that year is up, they keep that money."
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