Fuel prices will make big trucker shortage even bigger - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Fuel prices will make big trucker shortage even bigger


April 4, 2008

Albany--  Gas prices hit another record Friday and truck drivers say they continue to be hit the hardest. This week, many independent truckers went on strike. Some even threatened to leave the industry altogether because of rising fuel prices.

This adds to the already huge trucker shortage nationwide. It'll only get bigger.  The record diesel prices even has future truckers worried about their livelihood before they even get in the cab.

Truck driver Johnny Wilkes has been in the business for 31 years. A short time ago, he ventured out on his own as an independent. He had to give it up. "Had to. I have a house, six kids," said Wilkes.

After just a year and a half, high fuel prices forced him back to working for another company. "I couldn't just sit around and wait for them to go down. I had to do something or I would lose everything I've got," said Wilkes.

And many truck drivers like Wilkes will tell you the future doesn't look too bright. "I know ten of my friends that have their own trucks are now working in the factory because they can't afford to run the trucks," said Wilkes.

Despite that outlook for some current drivers and the rising fuel costs, future truckers still want into the business. Ironically, one thing is the motivation for some.

"Money," said Albany Tech student Derick Mackey, "and it's a career." But there's already fear that the high cost of diesel will make that career difficult.

"That's a bit scary," said Albany Tech student Matt Fincher.

"Right now the way that gas prices are, I want to work for a company," said Mackey.

Albany Technical College offers a Commercial Truck Driving course. Registration has been slightly lower here in recent months. The nationwide trucker shortage is much higher. "It's pretty intense," said ATC Instructor David Ratliff, "there's a huge shortage of drivers, probably in the hundred thousands."

It'll grow even more with strikes and fallouts. Albany Tech is helping to fill that void by thoroughly training those that want to hit the road for a career. Although prices continue to creep up, Ratliff says there will continue to be a need.

"The demand is going to be there. The trucks are there and they need drivers," said Ratliff. The need isn't matching with the desires though. Some would prefer to be independent from the start.

"The fuel the way it is right now, it's kind of hard to come straight out of school and buy your own rig and just jump out there," said Fincher. And those already in the game say they're losing.

"I think it's rude and highway robbery. That's what I think," said Wilkes. That makes each fill-up even more frustrating and continues to leave a future in question.  

Each year, Albany Tech graduates about 100 new truck drivers.  

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