By Forrest Saunders
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The president of CRST Expedited Inc., Cameron Holzer, has got a problem a lot of trucking companies are facing. He needs more drivers.
“I have 100 trucks that are sitting open right now. So I need 200 drivers to fill our trucks,” said Holzer.
Reaching that goal won’t be easy. The nation is in the midst of driver shortage while demand for the trucking industry is soaring. The U.S. Department of Labor has reported trucking is one of the fastest growing industries in the country. As the economy grows, so does the demand for goods and more truck drivers are needed to move those goods.
“The customers need our equipment. They are calling and asking for us to haul freight. If I don’t find individuals to work and move those loads around we’re not going to be able to haul the freight the customers need us to haul,” Holzer said.
At Kirkwood Community College, trucking experts said retiring baby boomers and new trucking safety regulations in 2010, called CSA, have shrunk the driver pool. It’s created a void that isn’t being filled by young people.
“It’s hard to fill those positions that are now gone. The younger generation doesn’t find it very appealing,” said Kirkwood’s Transportation Supervisor Freddie Jones.
Jones said young people can be discouraged by trucking’s long hours and the many misconceptions about drivers’ health.
“You know what; I’m not going to lie. I fell for the stereotype loop myself,” said Karl Harlow, a Kirkwood trucking student.
Harlow came from Florida to train at Kirkwood. He said his misconceptions disappeared once he actually got to know drivers.
“They weren’t overweight, they weren’t discourteous, they didn’t seem like they were uneducated. They seemed like they were just everyday people,” Harlow said.
While schools fight stereotypes to bolster driver numbers, businesses are using incentives. CRST Expedited officials plan to increase their overall driver pay by $10 million over the next year.
“We need to start competing with the other opportunities out there,” said Holzer. “The driver shortage is real. It is something that is throughout the entire industry. This is our attempt to remedy the driver shortage at CRST.”
CRST Expedited hopes the pay increase will also entice current drivers to stay. Plus, Holzer said the move will help offset July 1st’s new federal regulations that limit the number of hours drivers can log.