When Calhoun Community College first began it's commercial driver license classes 17 years, just one person enrolled. Now, according the school, they run multiple classes simultaneously, each packed with students. It is a good thing, too. America is experiencing an unprecedented demand for commercial truck drivers.
"The American Trucking Association - the big trade group - estimates 890,000 jobs (will open up) in the next decade," said Aaron Huff, a writer for Commercial Carrier Journal.
"There are companies having to turn down loads because they can't get drivers to take them."
Huff attributes the shortage to a multitude of reasons including an aging population of truck drivers, more hesitation for long haul routes, plus the massive surge in online shopping. It is called the Amazon effect - the way the online giant continues to impact everything from shopping malls to, in this case, the shipping industry.
There is an increased need to haul goods long distance, plus an increased demand for local delivery jobs. Both industry continue to absorb available drivers, which also creates a glut of openings for other industries in need of commercially licensed truck drivers.
"The freight is there if you can get the drivers," David Cline told WAAY-31. He works for a company in Decatur called Tidewater Transit. The specialize in the hauling of hazardous materials and, like other parts of the industry, his company can't hire drivers fast enough. He comes to Calhoun in hopes of recruiting newly-licensed drivers.
"I come every month they have a class. Usually, if you can get on driver a month, or every six months, you're doing good."
The salary continues to grow. Huff cited recent numbers collected by the Commercial Courier Journal which show a massive jump in pay for long haul drivers.
"Several years ago the average pay was $45,000 to $50,000. In a couple of years it has jumped to $65,000 to $70,000."
As Huff points out, unless companies recruit more people to fill these jobs, the added costs will end up on the shoulders of consumers. "Prices have to go up to support that."
A search of career websites like GlassDoor.com show thousands of opportunities nationwide. Courtney Taylor with Calhoun Community College shared some eye-opening local numbers.
"In just our four counties; Madison, Morgan, Limestone, and Lawrence, we are looking at 7,000 job postings for the first four months of the year."
Calhoun is getting creative in hopes of recruiting even more people interested in obtaining an commercial drivers license. Come September, they're launching an all-female CDL course in hopes of drawing more women into the field.
Amazon, meanwhile, created its own system in hopes of avoiding a shortage of drivers on a local level. For a $10,000 start-up fee, Amazon will pay to wrap a van you own with their logo, and then pay you to make deliveries for them. They're making the offer very attractive for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit - up to $300,000-a-year salary once you employ a staff of 100.
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