Specific trucking jobs are now paying $80,000 or more per year. Industry forces have increased wages to the highest they have ever been over the past two decades, but the trucking or transportation industry is still short of 50,000 drivers.
An Industry in Crisis
The trucking industry is on the verge of collapse as more and more truck drivers face retirement. The median age for drivers stands at 55, making truck drivers the oldest demographic amongst primary industry workers. Aging truck drivers face more problems on the road due to slower reflexes and decreased endurance, increasing the probability of accidents. Trucking companies are faced with balancing their need for personnel with potential losses stemming from insurance claims or even lawsuits. New truck drivers are few and far between — certainly not enough to fill the shoes of retiring old-timers. The age requirement of 21 (to cross state lines in a commercial vehicle) is seen as a significant factor in dissuading new graduates from taking up trucking careers. Legislation has been introduced several times to address this issue. However, it could take years for one to be passed.
Talks of automated trucks making truck drivers obsolete have stoked fears, turning potential drivers away from the industry. On-board artificial intelligence (AI) for driving vehicles has been in development for years. However, both the makers of the AI programs and trucking industry leaders both proclaim that the AI will only assist and not replace truck drivers. On-board AI can take over from the actual driver once the truck reaches specific points — similar to the autopilot function of a plane. Flying is a lot safer than driving — no roads, no traffic, no other vehicles that can cut you off. However, even planes require human pilots, and the same holds for “automated” trucks. The automation of the trucking industry will also increase the demand for drivers as the scheduling for fleets become streamlined.
Opportunities for New Drivers
Acquiring a commercial driver’s license (CDL) can take as little as two weeks of your time. Trucking companies may require additional in-house training, but once you’re finished, starting salaries begin at over $45,000. Trucking companies usually have partnership programs with CDL training schools. They will gladly pay for your training, provide allowances, and some will hire you even before you’re done. A couple of years of driving can immediately raise your salary to $60,000, and veteran drivers with clean driving records can earn $80,000-$120,000.
Trucking isn’t for everyone. You’ll spend long hours by yourself confined in a small space, and oftentimes, the job will keep you away from your family for weeks at a time. If you’re lucky, you might find a company that offers 5 day work periods, allowing you 2 days off to spend how you wish. The job also requires constant attention to the road — at least until automation enters the picture.
Trucking pays exceptionally well, especially for the short amount of training it requires. The industry is desperate for new drivers, and openings are available in almost every state.