By KYLE ARNOLD, World Staff Writer on Jul 27, 2013, at 4:11 PM
Eva Gray isn’t what you might expect out of a long-haul trucker.
The 29-year-old Maryland native has a petite frame, red hair and a big smile. She spends her nights and weekends taking online classes and is just a year away from getting a master’s degree in psychology.
“I was just bored with what I was doing, and driving is something that always appealed to me. So I just went for it,” said Gray, who had just finished a trip hauling lumber from New Hampshire to Springfield, Mo.
“It’s the experience of a lifetime. You get to see so many things every day that you would never get to see.”
Her truck is loaded with the newest high-tech gadgets in the industry, like a GPS device to show her the shortest routes to destinations and electronic logs to show her how much time until her next required rest.
Gray is one of more than 900 drivers at Tulsa-based Melton Truck Lines Inc. The company would hire a hundred more if qualified drivers walked in the door, said Angie Buchanan, vice president of human resources and safety.
“We have 70 openings right now, but we would hire anyone that is qualified,” Buchanan said. “There is as much work out there as we can take.”
The entire trucking industry is facing a shortage of drivers as the economy rebounds, the energy industry demands more trucks and the baby boom generation, which makes up the largest pool of drivers, is aging out and getting off the roads.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the U.S. will need 330,000 more truck drivers by 2020. With the average trucker being 55 years old, the industry will face a shortage in the next decade from retirements.