Many new trucking jobs are opening up, and outlook for this industry is improving, experts say.
According to MSNBC.com, the industry is attracting many people from fields where jobs have dried up. As many professions become more specialized, truck driving continues to require few classroom-based skills.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, median hourly wages for heavy truck drivers were $17.92 in May 2008. But drivers don’t even need a high school diploma to be hired.
“The trucking industry doesn’t require it, and we don’t,” said Robert McClanahan, director of Central Tech Transportation and Safety Education, a public truck driving school in Drumright, Okla. “We do ask that they have a certain math and reading level, about sixth or seventh grade.”
Applicants for truck-driving jobs do need a relatively clean driving record, a stable work history, some mechanical ability, and the strength and stamina to drive for long stretches and help with loading and unloading cargo if needed.
And they must be prepared to be away from home, unless they can land a coveted short-haul driving job.
“When you have a family … you deal with a lot of guilt because you’re probably not going to be there for every special occasion,” said Alice Adams of Austin, Texas, a transportation writer and author of several guidebooks and manuals for truckers.
Trucking was hit hard in the recession. “This is one of the strangest times I’ve seen in my 40 years” in the industry, said McClanahan. “We’ve seen a lot of trucking companies go out of business. Trucking has always had a need for good drivers, and here all of a sudden they’ve had a freeze on hiring. It’s just been a strange situation in the past year and a half.”
But things appear to be turning around. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects overall growth of 9 percent in truck driving jobs between 2008 and 2018. Since the trucking market nationwide is huge, that’s significant, representing about 291,000 new jobs. Trucking is one of the largest occupations in the country, with 3.2 million jobholders.
Industry observers also see business picking up. Orders for Class 8 trucks — the largest tractor-trailers — rose 28 percent this March over March 2009, said Clayton Boyce, a spokesman for the American Trucking Associations in Washington, D.C.
“What that means is we’ll be pressured to hire more and more drivers,” said Boyce. “Predictions are there may be a real capacity shortage.”
McClanahan, whose school saw its student body drop from 600 to 300 during the recession, said hiring suddenly increased at the beginning of April.
“The companies were trying to hire the really good experienced drivers, and they’ve been able to do that for the last year,” he said. “But now that pool has dried up. Now they’re starting to come back to the schools looking for entry-level students.”