Press-Tribune: Shortage of Truck Drivers Leads to Creative Incentives

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Caldwell-based trucking company Holman Transportation Services is looking for 40 qualified truck drivers to keep up with its customers' needs. But as the Idaho Press-Tribune reports this morning, it's becoming harder to fill those jobs. 

The number of truck drivers in Idaho is expected to increase 12.9 percent between 2010 and 2020—that's from 11,803 drivers to 13,232 drivers, according to the Idaho Department of Labor. But the American Trucking Association says there's a shortage of about 25,000 drivers nationwide and around 96,000 new drivers will need to be hired yearly to keep pace with demand. The median salary for a truck driver in Idaho in 2012 was $35,800.

The Idaho Trucking Association said different factors contribute to the driver shortage, including the aging population of drivers; most of Idaho's truck drivers are at least 45 years old. But there isn't a new crop of drivers coming up. Another reason is the time commitment. Most people don't want to be on the road for weeks at a time, away from families or young children.

Julie Pipal, CEO of the Idaho Trucking Association, told the Press-Tribune that the industry is trying to adjust, "offering more home time, more flexibility, incentives, bonuses, anything they can do to increase the appeal to new drivers."

The College or Western Idaho is working to train the next generation of drivers, offering a 15-week Professional Truck Driving program that starts with classroom work, then progresses into simulator training, where instructors throw obstacles at students in simulations like weather events, tire blowouts and vehicles entering the highway. CWI also takes the simulator to high schools and career fairs to let anyone try it out.

Next, the students get field training behind the wheel, practicing backing up in a straight line and alley docking, as well as chaining tires for winter driving. They drive from Twin Falls and Riggins to log a couple hundred miles in a day. CWI boasts a 94-percent job placement rate from the program.

It's still a struggle for Holman Transportation Services to find the drivers they need. The owner said he was able to hire out-of-work construction workers when the housing market struggled in 2008 and 2009, but that just masked the problem of driver shortage. He said he hopes offering shorter amounts of time on the road and flexibility in employee routes, he'll be able to fill the drivers' seats once again.