Trucking Companies Are Struggling to Attract Drivers to the Big-Rig Life

Trucking Companies Are Struggling to Attract Drivers to the Big-Rig Life

Trucking companies eager to hire more drivers but facing a slim pipeline of new recruits aren’t finding much to encourage them at the James Rumsey Technical Institute in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Enrollment in commercial-driving courses at the school dropped to its lowest point in about 15 years this winter, a signal that the industry’s efforts to sell workers on truck driving haven’t gained much traction. “Recruiters said all the schools were down this winter,” said instructor Michael Timmer, although he added that more students are trickling in as the weather warms.

Freight volumes in the U.S. are surging on the back of strong economic growth, as retailers and manufacturers hire more trucks to haul imports from seaports to distribution centers and raw materials to factories. But the flow of new truck drivers is lagging far behind the roaring freight market.

With unemployment at a nearly two-decade low, the downsides of life behind the wheel are making recruitment tough. Many workers are opting for construction or energy jobs that offer more time at home or better pay. The trucking workforce is aging, and young people who might want to try trucking have to wait until they are 21 years old to get an interstate commercial driver’s license.

“I get a lot of guys out of high school. They come down for an interview, I say come back and talk when you’re 21,” Timmer said. “I rarely see them again.”