Trucking companies scramble to hire as increased demand creates driver shortage

The trucking industry is looking to hire drivers to combat a growing shortage and fill a rising demand from retailers.

For most people, the main interaction with truckers is on the highway, and you may not realize what they carry is what you need day to day.

Shawn Davis runs Tampa Truck Driving School, and he said the industry’s driver shortage means more students are signing up for his classes.

“When the economy increases, everything around it as far as trucking increases,” said Davis, who is the vice president and director. “The problem right now is that there are just so many people in the industry that are over the age of 55 that have been doing it for so long.”

Those long-time drivers are retiring, and the pool of potential drivers is shrinking.

“With the age requirements being 21 and up now, it's hard to get someone fresh out of high school,” said Davis. He added that people over 21 years may start college and not directly join trucking as a career.

Students at the Tampa Truck Driving School said they wanted a change.

“I’m a respiratory therapist, and I’ve been working in the industry for over 30 years,” said trucking student Glenn Guerrier, who decided he wanted a new career to feed his love of driving.

And more than just the open road drew them in.

“I’m looking for of course 401K to help your savings but nothing in particular. I just want to travel, do a job that I know I'll like for sure,” said trucking student Casandra Altidor, who left the food service industry to become a truck driver.

The American Trucking Associations said in a report that companies will have to hire 90,000 drivers a year to meet rising retailer demand.

“So, a lot of these companies are increasing the wage, they're paying their schooling off through tuition reimbursement,” said Davis about the incentives companies are offering to draw in applicants.

If the current shortage grows, ATA said there could be delays in shipments or shortages at stores.

“When it comes to personal items like toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, paper towels, that all has to come in by trucks as well,” Davis said.

Local students plan to be the next ones delivering your goods.

“Truckers are the red corpuscles of this country. They are providing everything that we need,” said Guerrier.

Davis said a new driver can make between $42,000 and $45,000 a year in the first year on the job. At some companies, including Walmart, drivers can earn about $90,000. Trucking companies are also doing more to offer better routes, new trucks, and bonuses.