Truck driver shortage nationwide - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Truck driver shortage nationwide

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March 2, 2006

Albany-- One industry just can't get enough job applicants right now and the pay is pretty good. If you don't mind the travel, truck driving might be the job for you. Career Builder ranks it as one of the top 25 jobs for 2006.

There's a national shortage of about 20,000 truck drivers, a big focus on those that make long hauls in big rigs. A south Georgia school is helping to fill those seats.

From sun up to sun down, truck drivers hit the road on missions to different destinations. "I get to see all over the United States, the deserts, California," says trucker Dave Demars. But fewer people are taking on that career. A national shortage of long-haul heavy-duty truck drivers is deeply affecting the industry.

"It's hard to find good drivers. The problem is lack of training for drivers," says Demars.

"It's a skill you have to learn so it's pretty intense," says Albany Tech instructor David Ratliff.

At Albany Tech, they're helping people to jumpstart their careers in the business. Future truckers like Gregg Jackson go through eight weeks of training. "Pretty easy, relatively easy," says Jackson.

He's on week six and says he's ready to leave the training area for the real road. "Pretty much, what I'm going to do is buy a couple of trucks and sit home and dispatch them out," says Jackson. But the real road comes with some drawbacks for truckers.

"If you have a family, you're away and you miss a lot of family time and home time," says Jackson.

Homesick drivers is one reason for the national shortage. Other reasons include the expanding economy. "These companies are just buying more vehicles and they need drivers," says Ratliff.

"Fuel prices have to come down. Fuel prices are way too high. That would ease up the burden on the trucking companies. Therefore they could put more drivers in the trucks," says Demars.

If more drivers don't choose to get in those trucks, the shortage could increase nearly 6 times what it is right now. But students like Gregg appreciate the chance to get the wheels rolling. "Very thankful," says Jackson.

Like the truckers already filling the void, he'll soon head to different destinations and get to experience the freedom of the road.

The trucking industry is working to make the career a little more appealing with better pay and more home time. If the downward trend continues, that driver shortage could increase to 320,000 by 2014. That estimate doesn't include the number of drivers needed to replace those who retire after 55 or switch careers.

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