July 21–If you’re the type of person who enjoys the open road and the feel of a steering wheel in your hand, a career in trucking or diesel maintenance may be right for you.
Industry experts say now is a great time to enter the field because the economy is booming. A healthy economy means more freight, and more freight means there’s a need for more drivers and technicians.
According to the Alabama Department of Labor, there were 6,468 want ads placed in May for three types of positions — registered nurses, truck drivers and retail salespersons. Of that total, more than 2,500 were for truck drivers.
That number is down significantly from the 4,800 ads for truck drivers placed in May 2016, but an official said there is still a big demand for drivers and support personnel, including diesel technicians.
“Some companies are having to park trucks because they can’t get enough drivers to move the freight they need to,” said Ford Boswell, spokesman for the Alabama Trucking Association. “The problem with trucking is, when (the industry) is good, it’s good, but if the economy tightens up, you have people looking for work and switching jobs.”
Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers earn a mean wage of $19.28 per hour. Boswell said skilled diesel technicians could earn as much as $50,000 to $60,000 per year, depending on their level of experience.
The American Trucking Associations released its Freight Transportation Forecast 2017 on Wednesday, which points to continued growth over the next decade.
The organization projects freight volumes to grow 2.8 percent in 2017, followed by a 3.4 percent annual growth through 2023. After that, ATA projects a more modest growth rate of 2.3 percent.
In 2017, ATA projects that 15.18 billion tons of freight will be moved by all modes — a figure that rises 36.6 percent to 20.73 billion tons in 2028.
“As the U.S. population grows and the economy increases with it, we will see continued gains in demand for freight transportation,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.
Training and employment
Boswell said while there are plenty of jobs available for drivers, it can be difficult for companies to take a chance on young drivers. The state won’t grant a commercial driver’s license to anyone under age 21 and he explained many companies wouldn’t hire drivers under the age of 23.
“There’s a gap there, but the workforce is aging and baby boomers are retiring,” he said. “We’ve got to attract more people to the industry.”
There are more than a dozen truck driving schools in the state, including one at Calhoun Community College. The school offers a weekend course for those wanting to obtain their CDL.
As part of the course, students alternate between classroom and driving in this course while learning about proper shifting techniques, CDL safety, map reading, inspections and federal and state requirements.
At the end of the training, students are administered a road test which must be passed in order to obtain a Class A or B license. Upon successful completion of the course, students will receive a certificate.
“The U.S. is experiencing a shortage of truck drivers, which is an opportunity for Calhoun to continue to train and distribute skilled drivers in to the workforce,” said Mary Smith, CDL instructor.
For more information on Calhoun’s CDL program, call 256-260-2462.
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