Finding Truck Drivers Remains a Tough Job

by Marty Cook  on Monday, May. 12, 2014 12:00 am  

Cliff Beckham

Truck driving is a tough job.

It turns out that finding and keeping truckers is just as difficult.

Driver recruiting and retention — we’ll lump them together as one entity — is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry. Recent federal regulations with strict guidelines regarding drive and break times only complicate trucking companies’ ability to attract and keep drivers, officials said.

P.A.M. Transport Services Inc. of Tontitown has to hire about 300 drivers every month, said CFO Allen West. The numbers are similar at another company, USA Truck Inc. of Van Buren.

“The biggest issue in the entire industry is finding drivers,” said Brad Delco, a transportation analyst with Stephens Inc. of Little Rock. “That’s not unique to P.A.M or USA Truck.”

West said P.A.M. has a vice president of driver resources, Clark Gray, whose job is to make sure the pipeline of drivers is always flowing. P.A.M. uses a third-party driving school but is always looking for experienced drivers as well.

That puts P.A.M. among basically every other driving company in the United States. West said that if a qualified driver showed up at P.A.M. tomorrow, the company would have a job for him.

“Someone with a CDL, there’s always a job for them,” said West, using the acronym for a commercial driver’s license. “Demand is that high.”

Cliff Beckham, the CFO at USA Truck, said the demographics began to change about 20 years ago as fewer people entered the driving field. Now there are more drivers retiring each year than there are ready replacements.

“It’s a long-term problem for the industry,” Beckham said. “We are all reacting to that tightening.” He said USA Truck contracts with several third-party driving schools and is also open — i.e., eagerly receptive — to any experienced driver who comes through its doors. Beckham and West said the allure of the highway doesn’t seem to hold the appeal that it once did.

West said his company tries to alleviate driver dissatisfaction by pairing rookie drivers with an experienced driver to start and then having younger drivers avoid the heavier trafficked routes and larger destination cities. But there comes a point, West said, when drivers have to drive because that is how product is moved and money is made.

“It’s an unexpected experience for a new driver out on the road,” West said. “A lot of times it’s more than a person wants to experience again. There’s a certain personality that loves being out on the open road.”

 

 

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