By Bloomberg News and Statesman staff - Idaho Statesman
Idaho freight companies are finding it harder to keep drivers and hire new ones.
U.S. trucking companies may face a 30 percent surge in wage costs by 2014 as rising demand for freight shipments threatens to push the industry’s driver shortage to the longest on record.
Even with numerous truck driving schools to hire from, a shrinking pool of drivers is putting wage pressure on Idaho’s trucking companies.
“Throughout this past year, we were down quite a few drivers,” said Jason Andrus, chairman of the Idaho Trucking Association and chief financial officer of Doug Andrus Distributing in Idaho Falls. “We’ve filled those positions now, but it’s just taking a lot more effort to keep those trucks with drivers in them.
”The current national shortfall will double in a year to about 300,000 full-time positions, or 10 percent of the workforce, said Noel Perry, managing director at consultant FTR Associates in Nashville, Ind.
A gap between cargo demand and the driver supply adds to evidence that the freight industry is recovering. 2011’s gains in cargo tonnage fit “with an economy that is growing very slowly,” the American Trucking Association said.
“The truck-driver population is growing at less than 1 percent a year,” said Jeff Kauffman, a Sterne Agee & Leach Inc. analyst who follows truck and railroad stocks. “Freight’s growing at closer to 4 percent.
”Truckers’ shipping volume, a barometer of the broader economy, was up 11 percent in July from a year earlier, according to Cass Information Systems. Echo Global Logistics Inc. (ECHO), a Chicago-based provider of freight services.
COMPETITION DRIVES IDAHO SHORTAGE
As freight volume rises, local truckers see more opportunities around the state and country, which leads to job-hopping, Andrus said.
He said his company, which employs about 260 drivers, raised wages in some divisions and significantly increased marketing and advertising to hire new drivers.
The company recruits from Idaho trucking schools — the College of Western Idaho and Eastern Idaho Technical College both offer programs — and gives students loans that are repaid by working for the company after graduation.
Idaho drivers earn “fairly competitive” wages and benefits, compared with other states, Andrus said. But some competitors — namely, the North Dakota oil fields — are unbeatable.
“We can’t come close to the oil field wages,” he said.
The shortfalls seen in previous freight rebounds are getting a new twist, according to Andrus and Perry.
U.S. safety regulations curbing drivers’ work hours mean companies must have more employees, and new rules help companies assess applicants’ driving histories — weeding out the riskier ones... Continue reading.