What is the impact of the national CDL shortage in Southeast Ohio?
ZANESVILLE – Years ago, it might have been easier for Jeff Moore to hire a truck driver.
It’s a lifestyle that’s generally different from the archetypal long-haul trucker. RMX Freight Systems handles general cargo shipping, which means drivers get into their vehicles, bypass central Ohio and state borders for nine hours, and get home in time for the having dinner.
It’s a regular job, said Moore, president of the company. Compensation and stability are always welcomed by the people who do.
If so, why is it so difficult to hire someone?
“I don’t know the answer to that question. I just know it’s really difficult and everyone has problems,” he said. From what he can tell, it appears that fewer people have the proper certifications and fewer people want to get them.
It was long before the pandemic that drivers were needed. Soaring demand for delivered goods is just one piece of the puzzle behind the growing need for drivers. Construction, utilities and other industries are also looking for CDL drivers.
With a number of logistical barriers and competition from large companies offering additional benefits and money, it is not easy for local businesses in rural Southeastern Ohio to compete.
“Not as easy as putting someone in a truck”
A 2019 report shows there was a shortage of nearly 69,000 trucking workers the year before, according to a report by the American Truck Association. This number is expected to rise to over 160,000 by 2028.
It is also not as simple as the number of employees needed. The report calls this a “quality over quantity” problem. More Class A CDL drivers are required, one of three types of CDL. It provides the skill level needed for the toughest hauls, like semi-trailers or oversized loads.
Moore sees promise in business school programs like the Middle East Career and Tech Centers. People are on the lookout for career changes and even young people are entering the programs to earn the much desired commercial driver’s license degrees.
“The pandemic has kind of made a lot of people aware (of the potential of CDLs),” said Shawn Dansby, training manager for the truck driver training program at Mid-East Career and Technology Centers. “There were a lot of people out of work, and they realized the trucks would still be there.”
This is something else that the ATA report cites. It is believed that young drivers like those around 21 may be more inclined to make long journeys before starting a family. However, federal law requires drivers to be 21 before they can cross state borders. It supports the DRIVE-Safe Act with the ATA. It is a bipartisan federal bill designed to fight the age barrier.
Some of the most visited points for RMX Freight are just across the Ohio River in Kentucky and West Virginia, Moore said. “But the law is the law, and you are crossing the state line, and at this point you will have to be 21.”
Although not all CDL jobs cross state lines – or even leave a single construction site. Programs like the one in Mid-East “prepare people to get to work,” said Steve Zemba, chief operating officer of Zemba Bros., of hiring people to operate heavy machinery.
Insurance companies like Buckeye Water Service, based in New Concord, often require a minimum age of 21 or a few years of experience. For Buckeye Water, drivers often have to haul water on twisty back roads.
“Because of the kind of work we do, it’s more difficult than just putting someone in a truck,” said Peggy Whited, head of human resources. “And then there’s the competition. When you have businesses that offer signup bonuses of $ 5,000, it’s more difficult for small businesses.”
The future shortage will increase, according to ATA. How can it be repaired?
It’s a problem for employers, but it’s not just employers who are suffering from the shortage
“If you don’t have people who can move (the shipments), that means the shelves aren’t going to be stocked, the factories are going to have delays. We’re seeing that already,” Moore said. “It affects everyone.”
E-commerce is changing the way the trucking industry operates, according to Ohio Trucking Association president and CEO Tom Balzer. There is essentially an entirely new element in the supply chain: going door-to-door, rather than just dropping goods off at a store.
With the increasing demand for home delivered goods comes a higher volume, hence the need for more trucks on the road. And many products from all industries are often transported across the country.
“From a shortage perspective (of drivers), the large long-haul trucking operations are obviously the most affected, because of the lifestyle that goes with it – people are far from home,” said Tom Balzer, President and CEO of Ohio Trucking. Association. “We are seeing the length of haulage decrease dramatically in the industry for this reason.”
Some big companies offer login bonuses, guarantee a weekly base salary, and even pay for CDL courses – which often cost $ 5,000 or more – just to get people behind the wheel.
Coshocton Trucking is currently offering cash to new drivers. Even when they offered higher login bonuses, “it didn’t affect (the number of apps),” office manager Tabitha Lassen said. Insurance also requires more experience than people coming out of business school. “It’s really difficult. We get calls every day from people who only have one year of experience.”
Demand will only increase, according to the ATA report, but hiring drivers won’t be easier.
There is, however, statewide interest in the profession. The Andy West of Mid-East Trucking Program said there was a backlog of test dates for the Ohio Department of Transportation’s CDL assessment. The school is looking at expanding the CDL program and how to get these tests to get students to an employer or apprenticeship as soon as they can.
“Our goal is to enable the student to be successful as quickly as possible and to change their life for the better,” West said.