The U.S. trucking industry is struggling to find interested and qualified drivers to fill tens of thousands of jobs, despite the fact that the positions can offer yearly salaries over $100,000.
Wages in the industry are on the rise as the driver shortage deepens. The Federal Reserve, in its monthly Beige Book, cited the trucking sector as one area where employers have responded to personnel shortages by increasing pay.
Brian Fielkow, president of multimillion-dollar trucking and logistics company Jetco Delivery, told FOX Business he raised rates for his drivers earlier this year, and is implementing another round of hikes on Monday.
“[Drivers] can and do make six-figure salaries,” Fielkow said. "We have specialized drivers that consistently make six figures, year in and year out.”
Fielkow noted pay conditions are improving for truck drivers as companies switch to hourly rates, instead of paying on the basis of miles driven or even percentage of revenue load. When drivers are paid by the mile, time spent sitting in traffic goes uncompensated.
While drivers with a certain skill set can easily make over six figures, Fielkow said even drivers with less experience or lesser qualifications can make salaries in the $60,000 to $70,000 range.
But beyond increasing pay, companies are working to improve the culture and quality of life for drivers. That includes keeping them closer to home when possible and customizing work based on drivers’ needs.
“[It’s about creating] the lifestyle and the pay package,” Fielkow said.
The driver shortage is expected to persist, meaning conditions will likely remain favorable for those both in the industry, or looking to get in.
In 2016, the industry was short more than 36,000 drivers, according to the American Trucking Associations, which expected that number to surpass 63,000 in 2018. By 2026, it could swell to 174,000.
“The main flexion point is an increasingly healthy economy, increasingly greater demand for trucking services, combined with retirements, aging driver population and not pulling and attracting enough young drivers in to replace those retiring drivers," he said.
In order to keep up with demand, the trucking industry would need to hire nearly 900,000 drivers through 2026, or about 90,000 each year, the trade group said.
For industry veterans, higher salaries are a welcome benefit after years of being underpaid.
"When you get a market this tight and you want to hire the very best people to represent your company … you have to pay,” Fielkow said.