This article appeared on the cover of the Classified Section of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette in Little Rock on September 23, 2012. Both Barry Busada and Freddy Gregg were quoted in the article, which can be read in full below.
Keep on Truckin’
Shortage of qualified drivers could mean higher salaries within industry
By: Linda Garner, Advertising Feature Writer
With many members of the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age, the Commercial Trucking Industry is experiencing a shortage of professionally trained truck drivers. This shortage has dramatically driven up annual salaries for qualified drivers, said Noel Perry, Managing Director for FRT Associates of Nashville, IN.
“The driver shortage has driven up salaries by 5 percent this year… to $50,000 a year now,” he said, adding that despite a national unemployment rate of more than 8 percent there is still a demand for truck drivers.
TRAINING IS CRUCIAL
“We’re training a lot of people that used to work in construction, factory and manufacturing jobs right now,” said Freddy Gregg of Diesel Driving Academy in Little Rock. “People are looking for jobs that have high wages, good benefits and are recession proof. That’s what truck driving can provide.”
Arkansas is home to six of the nations largest For Hire trucking companies – FedEx Freight in Harrison, J.B. Hun Transport in Springdale, ABF Freight System in Fort Smith, USA Truck in Van Buren, PAM Transport in Tontitown, and Maverick USA in North Little Rock.
Data from the Federal Highway Administration shows a total of about 6,000 trucking companies in the state, many of them small businesses. The good news is that all of those businesses need qualified drivers, and that means more jobs are available for Arkansans.
Trucks account for about 86 percent of all Arkansas inbound and outbound freight, followed by rail at 9 percent, water at 3 percent, and intermodal at 2 percent. To keep goods and materials moving on schedule, qualified drivers are needed for both local and cross-country routes.
“The best thing about this career is that you don’t need any prior trucking experience,” said Barry Busada, also of Diesel Driving Academy in Little Rock. Busada said qualified students can complete training and be prepared to start work in a short time, often with jobs ready and waiting.
THINK IT OVER
The decision to become a professional truck driver is not one to be taken lightly, as the career is actually more of a lifestyle. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most tractor-trailer drivers are long-haul drivers, meaning that they spend days or even weeks at a time on the road, often including weekends and holidays. Many individual, both men and women, find trucking to be a personally rewarding and lucrative career, citing the feeling of freedom and the chance to see more of the nation as part of the profession’s appeal.
In addition to driving tractor-trailer rigs long distances, truck driver are also responsible for loading and unloading cargo and keeping a log of their daily activities. Drivers must also inspect their trailers before and after runs and keep their trucks and equipment clean and in good working order.
HITTING THE OPEN ROAD
Most drivers plan their own routes, often using satellite tracking to help plan the best route to deliver their cargo on schedule. Drivers must follow traffic laws in each area through which they travel and must be aware of truck restrictions for various routes.
While many drivers are employed by trucking companies, others buy or lease trucks and work independently. These owner-operators are also responsible for business tasks, such as seeking out clients and taking care of accounting tasks.
Most trucking companies require entry-level drivers to have a high-school diploma or equivalent and offer short on-the-job training. Arkansas also has several schools devoted to instructing new drivers in how to handle a rig. Drivers must have a commercial driver’s license, or CDL.