Shortage of truck drivers is increasing nationwide

sportsou

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Current estimates are that the United States is shy 20,000 long-haul drivers, and a recent industry study said the shortage could rise to 111,000 by 2014.

Despite demand, wages have stagnated, and turnover in the industry is running more than 100 percent. Potential drivers have migrated to construction jobs, where the pay has been better and they don't have to be constantly away from home.

Even as the industry struggles with the shortage, talking about higher pay and attracting immigrant drivers, trucking officials say it is everyone's problem. Trucks move more than 70 percent of the freight in this country, making them an essential link between the consumers and the things they want and need. At some point the shortage will mean delivery delays and higher prices for consumers.

"Without truck drivers, nobody's got food on their shelves, clothes on their racks and electronics in your big-box stores," said John Wagner Jr., president of Wagner Industries Inc. of Kansas City, Mo. "The average age of drivers now is about 50 years old. We've got to find a way to attract more drivers to the industry."

Bill Graves, chief executive of the American Trucking Association, says finding drivers has become the chief concern of trucking companies, even ahead of the cost of fuel.

"Issues like fuel prices come and go, but the driver shortage has sort of become a constant drumbeat," Graves said. "Fleet operators listed the driver shortage as their No. 1 concern."

Once a headache mostly for large national trucking companies, the problem now hampers the small firms that make up most of the industry's employers.

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