A major shortage of truck drivers may mean the issue of supply shortages that leave store shelves bare may not end anytime soon.
In our continuing I-Team investigation, Jeff Stahl spoke to truckers who drive Interstate 10 through the Coachella Valley to get their thoughts on driving, the challenges, and safety.
“I play by the rules," said John Worley, a truck driver, "We’re all on E-Log now. You’ve got 14 hours to get your 11 hours of driving in, so there’s no messing around,” Worley added.
Worley of Iowa has been driving trucks for 35 years now and says he’s not surprised to hear that truckers like him are in high demand.
“Yeah, but what I was telling our boss, we’re a dying breed. We haul meat out and haul produce back. Nobody wants to do it no more. Everybody wants the 8 to 5 job now. And it’s just not there,” Worley said.
The National Trucking Associations says there’s a historic truck driver shortage nationwide. 80,000 are needed right now, and that number could rise to more than 160-thousand by 2030, according to a recent release.
Worley enjoys talking with other drivers, but admits life on the road isn’t easy. It’s tough on his family. But he wouldn’t trade it for anything. He’s not alone.
“Once a truck driver, always a truck driver," said Vernon Carstens of Nebraska. "You spend more than a year out here, you’re going to be a truck driver,” Carstens added.
Transportation companies face many challenges in hiring more drivers to meet the nation’s shipping demands such as more older drivers retiring, especially during the pandemic. Few are women who account for just 7 percent of the driving force. The legalization of marijuana by many states makes it harder for drivers to pass federally required drug tests. Drivers have to be at least 21 to haul across state lines. There are family and lifestyle issues that are hard on drivers who are away from home a lot. And long-haul drivers have a hard time just finding a place to park.
Still, salaries are good for new drivers who in some cases can be paid a hundred thousand dollars or more a year with no experience. That was enough to catch Elijah Chiappone's attention. “I tried it out and got my license and like it, you know? It’s a relatively easy job and I make good money,” Chiappone said.
Chiappone has been driving for less than a year after taking up the job from a friend's suggestion. He's among the newer drivers on the road. The California Highway Patrol told KESQ News Channel 3 newer drivers can be more prone to making first-timer mistakes such as losing control while speeding or making unsafe lane changes.
"I'm always trying to beat the time. By a certain time, the traffic gets really bad so I'm always tryin to get back by a certain time."Elijah Chiappone, New Driver
Chiappone says he tries to always drive cautiously, but one thing is always on his mind. “I’m always trying to beat the time. By a certain time, the traffic gets really bad so I’m always trying to get back by a certain time,” Chiappone said.
Even with the challenges, Chiappone told I-Team investigator, Jeff Stahl, that he wants to buy his own truck and make driving a career.
Police I spoke to agree, that most drivers are doing their best to stay safe on the road as they face the daily challenges of their jobs which are so high in demand right now.
Read and see more of this I-Team Investigation here: I-Team: Trucker Troubles- Big rigs are responsible for more collisions on local roads than their numbers would suggest