OSWEGO COUNTY – Commercial truck drivers are in urgent demand in Oswego County.
Because of the shortage of qualified licensed commercial drivers, the Oswego County Workforce New York office is working closely with local companies to recruit and help train people to fill vacant positions.
Although some drivers still spend “six days on the road” as described in the classic song, working conditions for commercial truck drivers have improved significantly over the past several years.
Some local companies offer drivers the chance to earn from $50,000 to $80,000 a year.
They strive to provide a driver-friendly work environment, a sharp contrast to the truck driver stereotype often portrayed in movies.
Transport company owners predict nothing but growth in the industry.
“Drivers are in high demand,” said Robin Hansen, human resources on-site liaison and operations supervisor of Penske Logistics in Oswego. “Most all products in the United States are moved from one point or another via a truck. Products to stores, hospitals, warehouses etc. move via the black ribbon of highway!”
Christine Weaver, director of client services for Oswego County Workforce New York, said that several local companies – Penske Logistics, Laser Transit, and Dreamweaver Trans –have routes that allow some drivers to be home daily.
Penske and Laser Transit both offer medical, dental and vision insurance, vacation and holiday pay, and retirement plans.
Depending on the route, drivers typically earn between $40,000 and $65,000 annually.
A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL – A) is required for a person to work as a truck driver hauling more than 26,000 pounds.
Drivers are required by federal law to be at least 21 years old.
Many drivers get their training through adult training classes at CiTi (Oswego County BOCES) or a commercial driving school such as National Tractor Trailer School in Syracuse or Sage Driving School in Rome.
The county Workforce New York office can provide tuition assistance and helps to train and place students.
Students complete classroom and road training and must pass a road test.
Some employers, such as Dreamweaver Transport, provide additional one-on-one training to make sure students are ready to take their road test.
There are many options available to professional truck drivers. Length of driving route, time spent away from home, and salaries vary, depending on the type of operation.
“Even though basic skills make the job highly transferable to any part of the U.S., the trucking industry is definitely not ‘one size fits all’ in terms of work environment, specialized experience and skills, length of day or miles, equipment types, and customer requirements,” said George Joyce, CEO of Laser Transit. “At Laser Transit, we have a variety of jobs that allow some drivers to be home every night while others have longer trips that get them home no less than every weekend. In addition, there are night shifts, dedicated runs and a variety of work that really allows us to find a fit to driver preference and skills. There are very few jobs in the truckload sector that are normal eight-hour days.“
Drivers who work for Penske Logistics out of Oswego can expect to be home daily, said Hansen.
They typically haul aluminum coils from the Novelis plant in Scriba, drive to a relay location in Hamilton, Ontario, about 4 ½ hours away, exchange their equipment with a driver coming from Flat Rock, MI, and bring scrap aluminum back to the Novelis plant.
The driver must take a 30-minue rest break.
Depending on traffic and border delays, drivers can expect to work a 10- to 12-hour day.
Elbridge Cleveland, owner of Dreamweaver Trans company, is looking for full-time and part-time drivers.
Some “long-haul” drivers work as a team driving from Buffalo to New Jersey, while others do local night runs from 7 p.m. to 4 or 5 a.m.
Dreamweaver runs 10 trucks that are leased with FedEx Ground to deliver packages.
Laser Trans is primarily a full truckload carrier with both vans and flat beds.
“Our trucks carry a variety of products servicing local manufacturing and distribution centers,” said Joyce. “Our typical operations are concentrated within the greater New England area, but many moves are wholly within New York State. We also perform cross-border moves into Canada.”
Although the three companies have seen immense changes in the industry, all agree that the focus on training and safety remains a priority.
“I’m an old-school trucker,” said Cleveland, who has 33 years’ experience in the industry. He started his own company two years ago with the goal of offering a family-friendly and driver-friendly experience to his employees.
“We make sure they are well-trained,” he said. “That truck has to be their second home, so they need to learn basic maintenance of the vehicle.”
Hansen said tighter federal rules and regulations help keep the highways safer. “The Department of Transportation wants to make sure that drivers are not fatigued behind the wheel, in an effort to keep the general and motoring public safe,” she said.
“Like most industries, the pace of change is unrelenting,” said Joyce. “Expansion of regulatory enforcement externally and safety management internally have been significant in the last decade. Technology adoption, equipment capabilities, tighter integration with supply chain partners, and customer emphasis with on-time deliveries and reliability” are the most notable changes in the industry.”
Joyce said research shows the nationwide shortage of qualified drivers will continue to be an issue for many years to come.
In 2017 the shortage was estimated to be 50,000.
By 2026 the shortage is expected to grow to 174,000 drivers.
“Drivers entering the profession will need a variety of skills — including more familiarity with technology, an emphasis on safety management, and interpersonal skills,” he said.
Oswego County is working closely with local companies to train people who want to become licensed commercial truck drivers and fill positions in local companies.