September 19, 2016 8:55 AM, EDT
Demand for Truck Drivers Remains High in Texas
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Amy and David Salinas decided to pursue a career as a truck driving team to make their dream to travel the country together a reality.

"I want to go across [the] country and see places I haven't seen yet, " David Salinas, 25, said. "We've talked about traveling and seeing the scenery, the mountains, the trees in different parts of the country."

The Salinases are going through Victoria College's truck driving training program. They received their commercial learner's permits and will take their Department of Public Safety driving tests Sept. 27 to receive their commercial driver's licenses.

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As a truck driving team, they would drive together in the same truck, rotating to cover more miles, Amy Salinas said. If they don't get a job offer as a truck driving team, the couple will accept individual jobs but will continue to try to find a team driving opportunity.

"I love the thought of being able to be with him all the time," Amy Salinas, 40, said.

The trucking industry in the U.S. is expected to be short 300,000 drivers within the next three years, said Brittany Espinosa, Paschall Truck Lines Inc.'s student development recruiter.

"Within the next two or three years, students drivers will be double in demand as they are right now," Espinosa said.

Paschall Truck Lines operates about 1,500 trucks. The number of student drivers the company has hired in Texas has increased 60% in the past three years, Espinosa said.

Paschall ranks No. 81 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.

The demand for truck drivers is high, said John Esparza, Texas Trucking Association president.

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"The pressure of moving freight for trucking companies is great," Esparza said. "Speaking of the Victoria area, even with the oil field slumping, the demand for freight and qualified drivers continues to rise."

The demand will continue to increase in Texas with the improvements to the Panama Canal and the growing partnership with Mexico, he said.

Population growth in Texas contributes to the demand for freight, which in turn increases the demand for truck drivers, he said. From April 2010 to July 2014, Texas' population grew 7.2%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"When you have 1,500 people moving to the state every day [and] another 1,000 people being born every day, that creates a demand for things, for goods, that the trucking industry meets," Esparza said.

For all the goods a community needs, 82% of communities in Texas rely on trucking alone because they don't have access to an airport, rail service or a port, he said.

The average annual salary for truck drivers in Texas is $46,157, Esparza said.

The average annual salary for a first-year student driver in the United States is $45,000 to $50,000, Espinosa said.

"I know that this represents an increase for the last 10 years," Esparza said. "I know 10 years ago it was in the $30,000 to $40,000 range."

Most of the demand for student drivers is for cross-country driving, said Clyde Revelle, truck driving instructor at Victoria College. The majority of Revelle's students go into this field.

Cross-country truck driving has a high turnover because people don't want to be away from home weeks at a time, Revelle said.

This is not a factor for Amy and David Salinas, as they chose to pursue truck driving careers to travel, they said.

Victoria College partners with Houston Community College for their truck driving training program. Both truck driving instructors at Victoria College are staffed by Houston Community College.

Despite if the economy is good or bad, certain goods have to have to be hauled, including food, auto parts and medicines, Revelle said.

"Those kind of products, they have to move," he said. "They have to be transported from point A to point B. There's always going to be a demand for truck driving."

The stability of the job is one of the factors that attracts people to truck driving, Revelle said.

"The opportunity there is better than other areas of employment," he said. "If you go look at a newspaper and you look at the classified area, you will find jobs available for truck drivers."

If truck driving came to an abrupt stop, there would not be any products on store shelves within 72 hours, Revelle said.