Despite recent cutbacks and hiring freezes, the trucking industry appears as if it will offer promising careers in the near future. A study by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and sponsored by Penske Logistics shows that growth is favored in the trucking industry, even before this year is out. Many people have recently been frightened away from careers in truck driving because of strategies that the freight transportation industry used to weather the recession. There were broad hiring freezes and lay-offs, and not all capable applicants could find jobs. However, Rosalyn Wilson, the author of the Council's report, has identified truck driving as a good career option based on current demand and usage of trucks for shipment and on correlations between similar economic situations of the past and present day.
The report says that the United States trucking industry will need to hire about 200,000 drivers by the end of the year 2010, and it will need to add a further 200,000 by the end of 2011. The trucking industry lost almost 150,000 driving jobs since the beginning of 2008, but as the economy improves and freight transportation is rejuvenated, more truck drivers will again be needed. Key factors contributing to the increased need for truck drivers includes expected retirements, stricter safety regulations that will remove many bad drivers from the road, and refilling positions that were eliminated during the height of the recession. Truck driving is a well paying job, especially considering the amount of training required for applicants. It can, however, be a difficult career. The most coveted short-haul jobs are much harder to come by, and drivers can't always be at home when they want to.
"It's not a very attractive profession," Wilson said. "People want jobs, but they also want their quality of life, to be home with their family at the end of the world day." Still, for people without these concerns, the salary can be hard to turn down. The median pay for a trucker in May of 2009 was $37,730. While Wilson concedes that the wages have probably fallen in the last year because miles driven were reduced, she said that a driver shortage should combine with an increase in miles driven to push wages higher in the years to come. During the recession, trucking companies were suddenly flooded with job applications because they were in the process of reducing their numbers, and laid-off truck drivers and construction workers were competing with new recruits for what jobs were left. As the economy has picked up over the last few months, more jobs are being opened in the trucking industry, and the surplus of applicants without positions is declining.
The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' report only forecasts a conservative 4 to 6 percent growth in freight traffic for trucks this year and next. However, Wilson points to history, which demonstrates that freight traffic typically grows by about 10 percent coming out of a recession. "We're already seeing shortages in some markets. As traffic starts to climb, we're likely to see the shortages get worse," Wilson said. "How much of a driver shortage we have will depend on how much the economy picks up." Furthermore, she points to demographic statistics that are likely to factor in an increase of trucking jobs. Around one in six truck drivers are aged 55 years or older. She thinks that regardless of the strength of the economy, positions are likely to open because of this large pool of soon-to-be retirees in the workforce. "We're going to need 1 million drivers in the next 15 years just to deal with replacing retirees and the normal growth of freight," Wilson said.