Truck driving students are getting job offers by their second day of classes, according to Sage Truck Driving School instructor Gary Seifert. It's an anomaly turned common practice as the trucking industry faces a nationwide shortage, one that is preventing deliveries of the goods we expect on grocery store shelves and beyond.
Seifert works for a truck driving school, getting students signed up and ready for classes. He's working to promote the field in an effort to remedy the shortage.
“The people who come in and get their licenses, when they call you back, two to three months later, and tell you that it changed their life, it makes any work we do here so much worth it,” said Seifert.
After a month of classes, you can get your CDL license. And with it, Seifert says you can start making $65,000 a year, a higher salary than usual, but one companies are willing to pay with such limited staff.
“It’s a matter of attracting people to an industry that wasn’t always looking so attractive to begin. We are fighting the old stigma, of ‘Oh, you’re a truck driver,’” said Seifert. “I was an IT director for school districts for 38 years and I walked away and went to trucking and I wish I would have done it when I was 25.”
A 2019 study by the American Trucking Association said that the industry needs to hire 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade to keep up with retiring drivers and the growing economy.
“For an industry where, if we stopped, if trucks stop for three to four days, every shelf in the country would be empty,” said Seifert.
The ATA says one population they struggle to attract to the career is women. In 2018, only 6% of truck drivers were female.
“But the thing everybody’s always curious about, is where do they sleep,” Seifert said. “Most of the trucks that are not used for training have flat screen TVs, microwaves, refrigerators made for trucks. You get used to it, it just takes some getting used to. But I sleep better in my truck.”
There are some drawbacks to the career, like being away from family for days at a time.
“My granddaughter specifically said one day, ‘Grandma, why isn’t Grandpa home more often?'” said Seifert. “But just the camaraderie, the fellowship when you get inside of a truck stop everybody’s saying hi to you, ‘Hey driver,’ ‘Hey driver,’ they sit down with you and start talking - you don’t even know who they are - they just sit down at your table and start talking. It’s a real family thing that I really, really appreciate. I love getting out in that world.”
Despite the cons, Seifert still stands by trucking.
“The industry is just so amazing. I think it's a great career,” he said.
According to the 2019 ATA study, trucks carried more than 70% of all freight transported in the United States.