Have you noticed delays in deliveries or empty shelves at the grocery store? A national shortage of truck drivers is making it take much longer for items to appear in stores or delivered to your door.
As of 2019, the U.S. was already short about 60,000 truck drivers, according to the American Trucking Association. The association predicts that shortage could grow to more than 100,000 by 2023.
Since the average age of a truck driver is 55 years old, many are retiring and aging out of the industry. The American Trucking Association estimates there will be a need to hire more than a million new drivers within the next decade.
Derek Dean has been a truck driver for more than 20 years and owns his own trucking company Dad Express. He said he suggests truck driving for anyone who wants to create generational wealth or even start their own business.
“It gives you an opportunity to see the world and to learn, grow, become financially stable and you can build from that,” Dean said. “It’s a good starting point, especially if you’re young.”
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2020 median heavy and tractor-trailer truck driver pay was $47,130 per year or $22.66 per hour. The lowest 10% of the drivers made less than $30,660 a year, however, the highest 10% of the truckers earned more than $69,480 per year.
Although truck drivers may not be able to make $100,000 each year right off the bat, with experience, specialization and the right company, many truck drivers can make $80,000 and up. Many companies also have sliding pay scales where after a year or six months your pay rate goes up.
Specializing or becoming certified in transporting hazardous materials, liquids, oversized loads and even ice road trucking come with higher pay.
Most professional truck driving positions require a Commercial Drivers License (CDL), which can take anywhere between three- and nine-weeks training to secure and cost between $3,000 and $10,000. Most schools have financial assistance or scholarships available.
Dean loves his job, especially because of all the travelling he’s able to do as a trucker. He loves driving through the mountains in South Dakota, through the Midwest, to the Ohio Valley.
But some of the downsides include changes in weather, traffic and tight deadlines.
“It depends on the load you take and where you go. You still don’t know what you’re going to face once you get out there, like rain or blizzards, or traffic. You never know what you’re going to get in trucking,” Dean said.
He said he’s learned over the years that planning and safety are key in the truck driving industry.
“There’s no better training than on the job training, so I would suggest you get on with a company, you learn and pay attention, and you can work your way to a pretty decent lifestyle,” Dean said.