Trucking companies don't have enough drivers for the long haul

sportsou

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BELLEVUE — Jason Ostenson, an independent truck driver from Edgemont, S.D., sees advertisements from trucking firms seeking drivers all over the place.

"You always see it on the back of trucks, back of trailers, every truck paper you pick up," he said Thursday at a Bellevue tuck stop.

For more than a decade, small and large long-haul carriers alike have looked for ways to attract new drivers to their businesses and the industry — which says it is facing a shortage of qualified long-haul drivers.

A May 2005 analysis and forecast for the American Trucking Association regarding the driver shortage indicated at least another 219,000 long-haul heavy-truck drivers will be needed to replace the drivers 55 and older who will leave the occupation over the next decade.

The shortage was about 20,000 drivers industry-wide when the report was issued almost two years ago and was expected to climb to 111,000 by 2014 in the absence of any "substantial market adjustments."

Schneider National in Ashwaubenon has looked to other avenues to find their drivers.

Most recently, recruiters have set up pages on MySpace and the company has posted video on YouTube in an attempt to reach prospective drivers and employees.

"We have to adjust our approach to recruiting because you look though our industry and one of the challenges, not so much at Schneider but at some other trucking companies… their average driver age is now in the 50s," said Rob Reich, Schneider's vice president of enterprise recruiting. "Five to 10 years from now, they have a major retirement issue."

The average driver age at Schneider is the early 40s.

"You really have to say, 'Where is that next generation of driver?' and reach out to them and let them know you're here for them," Reich said. "I think the Internet is a great way to do that."

Schneider has also established a partnership with AARP to attract drivers from that segment of the population. They continue to focus on military hires and have expanded into making specific contacts within communities — like Hmong and Hispanic organizations — and hire new and experienced drivers alike.

Schneider — which has about 15,500 drivers around the nation and can hire up to 100 to 200 drivers a week — has also upgraded its Web site and on-line application process, Reich said. It also offers paid driver-training.

In Green Bay, Bayland Transport Inc. Vice President Curt Larscheid said they have seen ups and downs in the availability of drivers on the market. They now have 29 drivers on staff.
"We're sitting pretty good right now," he said. "You've got to work around it. That's about the best you can do."

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