There's a shortage of truck drivers in South Carolina and nationwide, which means job opportunities, but could also mean higher prices for you.
"From a company standpoint, at any given time, we're looking for 20 to 50 drivers," says Steve McCourt, vice president of G&P Trucking outside Columbia. Nationwide, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the U.S. will need about 330,000 more truck drivers by 2020. Some estimates are even higher.
There are several reasons for the shortage.
"There's a quality-of-life issue," McCourt says. "In other words, a driver is out on the road and not at home, so he doesn't spend every night at home. There's pay issues, where people believe the industry has to work hard to get the driver pay up, which we believe too."
The average age of truck drivers nationwide is 55, according to the BLS, so a lot of drivers are nearing retirement age. And at the other end of the age spectrum, you have to be 21 years old to drive, which means someone coming out of high school at 18 finds something else to do before he's old enough to drive a truck.
The demand for drivers is also increasing because the economy is starting to improve, so there are more retail goods, equipment, and building supplies that need to be moved by truck. But because of that improving economy, some people who lost their construction or other jobs during the recession and became truck drivers are now going back to their previous jobs so they can be home at night.
The driver shortage could affect what you pay for just about everything. "If there's a demand for the movement of goods throughout our supply chain and there's a limited supply of drivers, then basically capacity gets squeezed, and when that happens prices go up," McCourt says.
But if the industry has to raise pay to attract more truck drivers, that additional cost would also be passed along to consumers.
Another factor contributing to the shortage is the training required to be a truck driver. McCourt says the training can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000. It takes 8 to 12 weeks, plus classroom time. His company also does its own 6-week training after hiring a driver.
But McCourt thinks driving a truck should be an attractive job.
"Our driver pay ranges probably at the low end from around $38,000 to the high end around $72-74,000," he says. "So if you're a person who didn't have an opportunity to go to school and you can find a way to earn, you know, $70,000 a year or $65,000 a year, we think it's a pretty good opportunity."
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