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The Suburbanite
  • Demand is high for long-haul truckers

  • At age 41, Daniel Priest is taking a stab at a job he has considered for a long time. He’s working to become a truck driver. He’ll walk into a job that is in high demand. “There’s oodles of opportunities out there,” said Priest, who lives in Alliance. “You just pick which one you want and go.”

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  • At age 41, Daniel Priest is taking a stab at a job he has considered for a long time. He’s working to become a truck driver.
    He’ll walk into a job that is in high demand.
    “There’s oodles of opportunities out there,” said Priest, who lives in Alliance. “You just pick which one you want and go.”
    He’s confident about landing a job with a Wisconsin-based trucking company, where a family member works as a driver.
    The job Priest is eyeing has a mix of long-haul and local driving. There are times when he might be away from his wife and three children for up to a week. Priest said he can handle that. If the job called for spending three to four weeks on the road during a single stretch, he would look elsewhere, he said.
    Long trips are a reason the trucking industry is anticipating a driver shortage in the coming years.
    “Folks like to stay local,” said Philip E. Lattavo, vice president of Big Rig Truck Driving School. Spending weeks away from home and the family “doesn’t compute for someone trying to maintain a long-term relationship,” he said.
    GROWING DEMAND
    The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics expects the trucking industry to add more than 330,000 jobs between 2010 and 2020. Meanwhile, the Truckload Carriers Association estimates there are 200,000 job openings nationwide for long-haul drivers.
    Locally the oil industry’s interest in developing the Utica shale is hiking demand for drivers and shorting the long-haul companies.
    The challenge of finding qualified drivers has been unbelievable, said Pat Gardner, an executive with Logan Trucking & Logistics.
    “The shale industry is gobbling up drivers,” Lattavo said.
    The retirement of baby boomers and the increased demand for trucking services have fueled the driver shortage, according to a report from the American Trucking Association. The shortage is opening doors for new drivers. The ATA study determined that more than half of the industry’s truckload fleets are considering lifting bans against hiring newly licensed drivers.
    NEW OPPORTUNITIES
    Priest was working for an industrial supply company, but decided to look for a better opportunity and more pay. Truck driving is something he considered for many years.
    According to government statistics, median pay for truck drivers was $37,700 per year — more than $18 per hour — in 2010. Pay will run higher for long-haul drivers, exceeding $50,000 per year. Advertisements for drivers often include bonus pay and benefits.
    A high school diploma or equivalent covers the education requirements. The key is obtaining a commercial driver’s license, which requires completing courses at a truck driving school.
    Priest said he selected Big Rig because the school is close to Alliance and has lower tuition than other truck driving schools in the area. The program at Big Rig cost $4,500. Nationally, commercial driver’s license training can cost as much $6,000.
    Page 2 of 2 - Lattavo said there are programs that help students cover tuition, including government grants and loans for displaced workers. Priest said some companies will reimburse new drivers if they stay several years with a company.
    As for climbing behind the wheel, “it’s not all that easy to do,” Priest said. But during his four weeks of training, he learned vehicle safety and became acclimated to handling a large tractor-trailer. The key is to pay attention and be careful, he said.