Trucking Industry Could Fill Job Void

Some common sense appears needed to restore some balance to the trucking industry.

There are roughly 500 trucking jobs open in the Western New York region, including dozens locally, at a time when 5.7 percent of Chautauqua County’s population is out of work. There are programs to train truck drivers locally through the Workforce Investment Board and BOCES. It would seem at least some of those who find themselves out of work could earn a living driving a truck.

If only life were that easy.

Tractor-trailer accidents are costly to insurance carriers. So, trucking companies’ insurance carriers want companies to hire only drivers with at least two years of experience. Companies who don’t comply with their carriers’ wishes risk either paying exorbitant insurance rates or losing their carrier altogether. Add to that changes in state and federal regulations that aimed to improve safety – like limiting the number of hours a day or week that a truck driver can drive – and the shortage of drivers gets even bigger because more drivers are needed to move the same amount of freight. As veteran drivers retire, there are fewer and fewer drivers with experience in the pool of truck drivers.

Over the next decade the trucking industry will need to hire a total 890,000 drivers, or an average 89,000 per year. These figures include replacing retirees (45 percent) and industry growth (33 percent) of new driver hires. In the national economy, 68.9 percent of all freight tonnage is moved on the nation’s highways.

Perhaps better training would mollify insurance carriers’ concerns. Maybe pay needs to increase further to attract more applicants to the jobs available locally. Whatever the answer, we should find it quickly. It seems silly that there are people out of work at a time when at least one local industry is struggling to fill jobs.