“It’s an exciting time to be a truck driver right now because there’s so much demand for drivers,” said director of the California Truck Driving Academy, Tina Singh. “Our yards are busy, and they’re very vibrant with a lot of activity.”
The truck driver school, based in Los Angeles, has seen more potential truck drivers walk through its doors recently than it has in quite a while, which can likely be attributed to the long-running truck driver shortage taking place across the country that has brought with it competitive pay and benefit offers from fleets desperate to onboard more truckers.
Since 2020, the California Truck Driving Academy has had a nearly 20% boost in enrollment and may even begin offering night classes to meet demands, according to Singh.
“Everything in this country runs by truck at some point or another,” she said. “And so, you know, you need truck drivers to move goods.”
Because the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a major increase in e-commerce and online shopping habits, consumer spending has risen 15% over the last year, with production numbers reaching numbers of 5% more than before the start of the pandemic as manufacturers step up to meet the demand for goods as efficiently as possible.
Additionally, many employees in a variety of industries decided to leave jobs during the pandemic that caused them to frequently come into contact with other people. Because of this, goods transport worker, retail staffer, and ship-unloading worker shortages skyrocketed, as did the overall shortage of truck drivers–which has reached about 80,000, noted University of Southern California’s Marshall Center for Global Supply Chain Management’s executive director, Nick Vyas.
The California Truck Driving Academy has also seen boosts in potential drivers showing up for training due to a clearly stretched-thin supply chain at ports in Long Beach and Los Angeles, where many ships are often waiting off the coast for unloading for long periods of time (the average wait is currently at 17 days, although port efforts are operating 24/7).
By filling these vacant roles, “you’re kind of helping the community out, and you’re making money at the same time,” said Academy student Thierno Barry. “It’s a win-win situation.”
Driving schools in other states are also doing their part to ease the exacerbated driver shortage. FleetForce Truck Driving School is now working with the Florida Trucking Association in an effort to bring more truckers into the industry.
FTA-affiliated companies are currently offering to pay full tuition for new truck drivers working to enter the trucking world and obtain their commercial driver’s licenses. Additionally, some students will be able to receive sign-on bonuses along with a full paycheck from the FTA-affiliated company once they’ve received their CDL and are continuing training.
“Trucking is a central part of growing and maintaining a strong economy, but it’s also a life-changing career opportunity for so many people,” said Tra Williams, CEO of FleetForce. “This new program is offering free training and guaranteed employment for applicants who meet the qualifications.”
Williams echoed Barry’s sentiments about how mutually beneficial entering the industry at this time really is for both the economy and the truckers themselves.
“There’s excellent earning potential in this industry right now, and there’s a dire need for entry-level drivers,” Williams said. “It’s a win-win.”
Covering these kinds of costs for new truckers is especially important, as training costs can often deter potential truckers from even beginning the road to employment.
“FTA is always looking for creative solutions to solve industry challenges,” said FTA President, Alix Miller. “The driver shortage limits capacity for trucking companies, and directly impacts the economy and Floridians’ daily lives. This collaboration matches some of the most well-respected companies in the state with well-trained drivers eager to get on the road.”
Right now, FleetForce is working on pre-hire screening checks to make sure incoming applicants are indeed qualified for this particular program. As for the California Truck Driving Academy–what’s currently needed the most is more truck driving instructors.