Experienced, young truck drivers in demand

Jul 30th, 2013 | By | Category: Transportation
Hank Brown is the professional trucking program director for Eastern Idaho Technical College in Idaho Falls.

Hank Brown is the professional trucking program director for Eastern Idaho Technical College in Idaho Falls. (Submitted photo)

By Vanessa Grieve

The Great Recession brought in a number 40 and 50 year olds in need of a career change to Eastern Idaho Technical College to become truck drivers, Hank Brown, the school’s professional trucking program director, said.
Brown. who’s been in the trucking industry for 43 years, said one thing that hasn’t changed is the need for drivers.
He said whether the market is up or down opportunities to work “America’s lifeblood” has been steady, and experienced truck drivers are always in demand.
“One of the problems our industry has had — for a long time — (is) there is a driver shortage. A driver never has a problem finding a job,” Brown said, adding that quick turnover is common until drivers realize that there is no perfect job. “There is just an unlimited supply of work … . You can never be unemployed, but it’s very demanding work. … If you’ve got CDL, and you have experience, and you are unemployed, it’s because you want to be.”
The program at EITC started about nine years ago to train professional truck drivers seeking long-term careers, going above and beyond Commercial Driver’s License, or CDL, requirements, Brown said. The six-week, 10-credit college program trains about 33 drivers per year with three students per class.
While the program is not mass producing CDL-certified drivers, its graduates are prepared to enter a company training program. Many company training programs are from four to six weeks long. In the East Idaho area, new drivers can make between $35,000 and $40,000 a year.
“There’s all kinds of companies that are looking for people who want to make it a career,” Brown said. “We’ve got companies here in Idaho Falls that will take the students after we train them.”
Calvin Fillmore is the owner and founder of Boise-based Diamond Line Delivery Systems. (Submitted photo_

Calvin Fillmore is the owner and founder of Boise-based Diamond Line Delivery Systems. (Submitted photo_

Calvin Fillmore, owner and founder of Boise-based Diamond Line Delivery Systems with his wife, Myrna, said the average age of drivers is getting older, and it’s been harder to attract younger drivers. Diamond Line started in 2000 with an office in Pocatello offering dry-van-less-than truckload, known as LTL, services, throughout Idaho, Utah, Washington, Oregon and Western Wyoming.
Calvin said the company has a successful four- to eight-month driver training program and has made the move to a partially employee-owned company. Diamond Line has not been immune to the nationwide driver shortage, but has found greater retention through its scheduled regional routes, which allow drivers to be home with their families daily. Higher turnover has been seen in larger cities, such as Portland and Seattle, but the high-turnover trend slowed down during the recession.
“There is a shortage of qualified men and women who can operate a truck,” Fillmore said in an e-mail. “We are a service business and without people that you can count on you will fail to meet the needs of your customer. We have not been immune to service failures due to not having the manpower to get the job done correctly and accurately.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports at least 1.6 millions drivers were employed as of 2010. The availability of jobs is expected to grow 21 percent form 2010 to 2020.
The trucking industry is a vital moving service that won’t go away any time soon, Brown said. Even with railroad transportation trucks and truck drivers are still in high demand.
“You still have to have a truck to move stuff off the rail and to the rail,” said Ron Lorenz, facility security officer and project manger at Tri State Motor Transit Co.’s facility in Pocatello. “Ag trucking and a lot of that special stuff that has to be done, that stuff we haul. The rail don’t move it as quick and easy.”
Having been in the trucking industry for 53 years, Lorenz knows the hard work that is involved, but every day is different. He said the industry has its ups and downs and is constantly changing.
“Truck drivers are hard to get,” Lorenz said. “Trucking is a tough thing to do. A lot of people can’t handle being away from home.”
Missouri-based Tri State has regional and interstate trucks and handles a number of federal government contracts.
Tighter requirements in the industry and insurance has made it harder for new drivers to gain employment. Once a driver has a minimum of two years’ experience, he or she can find no shortage of work opportunities, Brown said. Initial job prospects might not be the most desirous.
“Most of these companies (that) don’t have training programs won’t hire people without two years’ experience,” Brown said due to insurance premiums on beginning drivers. “CDL requirements are getting stricter and stricter. There is a driver shortage and has been for along time. It is projected to get worse.”
Truck driving has also served as a fall-back option for people when jobs are scarce, Brown said. The shorter waiting list at EITC in recent months shows other jobs are opening up as the economy recovers.
Returning military veterans represent a noticeable job pool that might help meet some of the driver demand in the industry. Fillmore said the company has hired about a half dozen veterans in recent years.
“We are seeing a good group of returning military men and women helping to meet the void, but I still think there are not enough of them to meet the demand the industry has right now,” he said.
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