Freight Hauled By Truck Rising

Number of drivers is falling

South Carolina Radio Network
November 28, 2018 - 8:42 pm

Lee Rogers

NOVEMBER 28, 2018 BY RENEE SEXTON (South Carolina Radio Network)

As more and more freight is hauled from the Port of Charleston to distribution centers throughout the state, there is a growing demand for drivers with commercial licenses.

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a six percent increase in the number of commercial truck drivers between 2016 and 2026. And with the growing manufacturing base in South Carolina, the state is expected to have similar demands for freight and logistics.

“Job prospects for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers with the proper training and a clean driving record are projected to be very good. Because of truck drivers’ difficult lifestyle and time spent away from home, many companies have trouble finding and retaining qualified long-haul drivers. In addition, many truck drivers are expected to retire in the coming years, creating even more job opportunities,” says the National Supply and Demand Summary for the occupation listed on the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce website. 

“The number one issue is getting drivers trained, on the road, with good quality education to get the pipeline going,” said State Rep. Jay West (R – Anderson). West is Chairman of the House Transportation Subcommittee which met Tuesday to discuss the issue.

SCDOT said trucking is the primary mode for freight travel in South Carolina. The agency projects truck traffic will grow by more than 60 percent in the next two decades.

“We do have a drastic shortage there,” he said. “It’s not only within the trucking industry but all commercial drivers, whether it be construction companies, bus lines and others, we’re having issues of a shortage so we’re going to look for ways to address those things.”

People representing commercial driving businesses, truck driving schools, industries and the Department of Motor Vehicles told the committee some of the problems that need to be addressed to encourage people to consider driving as a career.

One issue young drivers face is insurance liability. Many companies insuring businesses who have commercial drivers set a minimum age for liability coverage, discouraging young drivers from finding a job once their training is complete.

“They’ve got their license, they’re qualified but they can’t find anybody to hire them because of insurance reasons or because of the liability that the company stands to bear the burden of if they hire them,” said Thomas Pierce, CDL Program Manager for Florence-Darlington Technical College.

“We’ve got to get them through some of these impediments,” said SC DMV Executive Director Kevin Shwedo, who also was Deputy Commanding Officer of the United States Army Training Center at Fort Jackson. “I’ve got individuals that are soldiers during combat with people shooting at them and I can’t take that kid and put him on the road because I can’t get him insured.”

Other obstacles include finding the money to pay for training. Some potential students have difficulty qualifying for tuition assistance programs or getting loans.

“It really is a funding issue,” said Kim Lineberger, owner of LCI Lineberger Construction and Carolina Construction School. “Quick money to be able to turn quick jobs.”

Buddy Young, owner of Capitol Tours in West Columbia told the panel half of his tour bus drivers are older than 60 years old and he’s having trouble finding young people who want to drive.

“The pool is shrinking faster than its growing,” he said.

Crad Jaynes, President and CEO of the South Carolina Timber Producers Association said while the state is encouraging STEM education, the same attention needs to be paid to vocational programs that produce blue-collar workers.

“We can’t make it sexy,” he said of making truck driving appealing to young people. “We try to. Truck driving is not sexy. A skidder operator in the woods is not sexy but it’s very well-paying jobs.”

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