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These job seekers are in the driver's seat
Big rig drivers are in demand.

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Date published: 1/27/2013

BY CATHY JETT

Chiron Platnum won't graduate from CDS Tractor Trailer Training in Woodford until next week, but he's already gotten two job offers.

The former landscaper and bus driver doesn't plan to decide which one to take until he finishes the four-week course.

Platnum, who lives in Fredericksburg, can afford to be choosy as he transitions into a year-round career that doesn't involve dealing with dozens of passengers--and typically offers a starting pay of around $40,000.

Tractor-trailer drivers are in high demand, according to the American Trucking Association, the industry's largest national trade association. Currently, there's a nationwide shortage of between 20,000 and 25,000 drivers, which could grow to 239,000 drivers over the next decade.

Jill Balleh, president of CDS Tractor Trailer Training, said that demand for graduates has been steady for years. Those who want to become long-distance haulers usually get placed before they finish, and some companies will even help pay the $5,000 tuition for those studying for a Class A commercial driver's license.

"Our phones are ringing off the hook in the spring and summer and fall," she said. "Year-round, there are always jobs."

ATA spokesman Sean McNally cited a number of reasons for the driver shortage, including a slowly improving economy and the resulting increase in demand for consumer goods. The majority are transported by tractor-trailer, and 80 percent of communities in the United States are served exclusively by truck drivers.

"[The shortage] could mean that when you go to the store to purchase milk or a Blu-ray player or TV, it may not be in stock because the company didn't have a driver to deliver it," McNally said. "It adds to the cost of the supply chain because carriers are doing more in terms of increasing driver pay. The real impact is that the goods you want may not be in the store, and when they are they may cost more."

Other factors helping to create the shortfall include fewer young people entering the field just as more experienced drivers are reaching retirement age. Danny Payne, owner of Payne Trucking in Massaponax, said 20-somethings these days would rather work at a computer than behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer.


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