I remember when I was a junior in high school in 1962, I had a part-time job after school and on Saturdays working for the PV Company Grain elevator and Lumber yard in Dunn Center. (My wages were $.85/hr.). Most of my job duties were filling orders for lumber, feed and fertilizer supplies, and fueling vehicles for customers. One job that was required at least once every two weeks was unloading lumber from a railroad car onto a truck, one board at a time, and then unloading the lumber from the truck into a bin in the lumber shed, one board at a time. Back then, most of the lumber, farm machinery, and vehicles came to our area by railroad cars. Almost every town had an unloading ramp by the railroad for this purpose. Even up until the late 1900’s, farm and construction machinery came to our area by railroad cars. Today, almost all of these supplies and equipment are brought into our area by trucks. The railroads are now hauling grain, coal, oil, and ethanol for most of their freight today. Around 70% of the freight is now hauled by trucks.
There is a problem with the trucking industry today-we have a shortage of around 100,000 truck drivers. It is estimated that a total of 3.5 million truckers in the United States are on the road everyday delivering almost every product you buy from the grocery store to the hardware store to the car dealer, farm machinery dealer and heavy construction equipment dealer. Around 10.5 billion ton of freight is delivered every year in the United States by trucks.
The average age of truck drivers is 55 years with many of them retiring soon. These drivers need to be replaced by someone. The job is not an easy one. Most trucking companies pay the drivers by the mile driven and some only pay for loaded miles. They are not paid when they wait to get loaded or unloaded. They are also under heavy stress to make delivery times required by the customer such as groceries, etc. The industry is also heavily regulated recording their driving time and down time. If the driver is delayed during his allotted driving time, he loses income, as he is paid by the miles driven only. The stress of driving on the road today is also very high with the different road conditions and road rage drivers.
This is a problem that will not go away soon! Our country could be in a bad situation if we go to a grocery store and find certain foods that are not there because of a shortage of truck drivers. We already have some parts of the country having gas stations with shortage of fuel due to the lack of truck drivers. We must solve this problem! I feel we need to build up the importance of the job and find a way to encourage young people to get the training to be a truck driver. We need to find a way to increase the pay and working conditions for the industry. Our education system needs to change their thinking and offer more courses of training for jobs such as truck drivers, welders, electricians, plumbers, etc. The shortage of employees in these professions will only get worse without a change in our education system, wages paid, working conditions, and the public attitude of the importance of these trades. There are too many 4-year University programs that are not needed today as there are no jobs available to fit those degrees!