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Truck driver shortage continues to grow amid the pandemic

What's behind the truck driver shortage and how has the pandemic impacted it?
Truck driving shortage
Posted at 5:00 AM, Oct 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-28 17:49:46-04

INDIANAPOLIS — With less than two months until Christmas, people are ramping up their shopping, but the truck driver shortage could be a Grinch this season.

A lack of truck drivers across the country poses one of the greatest risks to the supply chain. WRTV spoke with people in the trucking industry to get their insight on the delays and shortages in the Hoosier State.

Justin Black has hit the road for about four years now as a professional truck driver, delivering kerosene.

“It’s an experience that’s been priceless,” Black said.

It’s a big difference from his former career as a police officer, but he said it still gives him that feeling of worth.

“At the end of each day I go home, and I feel like I’ve done my part,” Black said.

He said, right now, he sees the need for more truck drivers during his workday.

“There’s definitely a lot of freight out there to be moved,” he said.

Truck drivers are the glue that holds the supply chain together and Black said the pandemic hasn’t helped the driver shortage.

“I think it was expected. Not to this extent, at this point where it’s at,” Black said.

Currently, Black delivers throughout the Midwest for Transmark Logistics.

Garrett Knollman, the company’s CEO, said the driver shortage existed years before the pandemic, partially due to an aging population.

“If you figure an average age of retirement at 65, then we have 10 years to replace 23% of an already shortage of drivers,” Knollman said.

However, he said the shortage worsened as there was a mass exodus in the industry during the pandemic.

“It all boils down to the transportation and just a generalization of the workforce,” Knollman said.

According to the National Tank Truck Carrier’s Association, there’s been about a 23% drop in the number of overall petroleum truck drivers.

Knollman said, to make things worse, hiring takes more time in their industry, with mandatory commercial drivers licenses and credentials. There is a limited opportunity to catch the interest of young people early on since federal laws prohibit anyone younger than 21 from transporting good across state lines.

“We need new people, we need educated people who can really make our roads safer and have, given us a strong workforce,” Knollman said.

To temporarily remedy the trucker shortage, Knollman even paid people to volunteer while they waited for their drug test results to return during the pandemic.

“Giving back to our community, and also you know keeping them with us, so they’re not interested in may be leaving the industry on or perhaps going to another carrier,” Knollman said.

Black said working for Knollman is a no-brainer with the fulfillment of adventure and travel while on the clock.

“If you want to see different parts of the country, different landscapes, I think it’s a great idea,” Black said.

It’s a career Black sees himself staying in for the long haul and he hopes many others see as a good opportunity too.

So, what’s being done on a bigger scale to fix the truck-driver shortage?

High schoolers in California are learning to drive 18-wheelers through a school program called NextGen Trucking. Knollman said he works with NextGen and Southeastern Career Center, as an industry partner to bring that program to Indiana next fall.

Below are the qualifications you need to become a truck driver. Many requirements are specific to each company, but according to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, you need:

  • A commercial driver’s license (CDL)
  • To undergo through a training course. Find more in this story.
  • To be at least 21 years old to drive between states

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