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3/28/2016 4:01:00 PM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

'Without Trucks, Man, We're Doomed'

Firms in Capital Region of New York Struggle to Cope with Driver Shortage

Driving a truck is a good way to earn a living, but the living isn’t always good on the road.

The reality of life along the interstate is a leading reason for a growing shortage of longhaul truck drivers, even as trucking firms maintain near-continual recruitment campaigns and offer lucrative incentives to attract and retain drivers.

Starting wages are often more than $1,000 a week, and longhaul drivers with a high school diploma and a few years’ experience can earn $70,000 or more annually.

Weighing against this is the time away from family, the endless roadside meals and the sleeping in the back of the truck.

Kendra Hems, president of New York State Motor Truck Association in Clifton Park, New York, said, “It’s tough. The market is very tight for a number of reasons.”

• Many experienced drivers are nearing retirement age.

• The volume of cargo trucked on American highways is continually increasing.

• By federal regulation, 21 is the minimum age for interstate drivers, and many companies won’t hire anyone younger than 22 or 23, ruling out a large potential labor pool — recent high school graduates who aren’t going to college.

Beyond that, there’s an image problem.

“It’s not necessarily what you would consider a sexy career,” Hems said. To counter this, she said, “One of the things we try to do is educate potential candidates that this isn’t just a job, it’s a career path.”

Truckers, she said, can move up to become a dispatcher or operations manager. Diesel technicians (they’re in short supply, too) can become a floor manager or department manager.

The health problems associated with the truck itself have largely been eliminated by manufacturers, Hems said. “The trucks of old, we had drivers with back problems and kidney problems because the truck was bouncing down the road, but that has changed.”

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By John Cropley
The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, N.Y.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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