"These Guys Are Like Diamonds" - America's Trucker-Shortage Hits A Crisis Point

Nearly every consumer product - from food, to textiles to electronics - sold in the US at some point touches the bed of a truck. Which is why the shortage of truckers to ferry goods across the US has become such an intractable problem for American companies - and unemployment at 3.8% isn't helping.

A shortage of workers is forcing trucking firms to raise wages and provide other incentives as they seek to fill an "official" shortage of 60,000 jobs that some industry insiders say is really closer to 100,000.


And as companies become more desperate, they're willing to take a look at applicants who never would've had a chance under normal circumstances, according to the Washington Post.

At TDDS Technical Institute, an independent trucker school in Ohio where Blocksom has considered enrolling, veteran teachers say they have never seen it this bad. They say there may be closer to 100,000 truck driver openings.

"As long as you can get in and out of a truck and pass a physical, a trucking company will take a look at you now," said Tish Sammons, the job placement coordinator at TDDS, whose desk is full of toy trucks and fliers from the companies that call her daily begging for drivers. "I recently placed someone who served time for manslaughter."

WaPo's story opens with an anecdote about Bob Blocksom, an 87-year-old retired insurance salesman who is searching for a job after having not saved enough money for retirement.

Bob Blockson

And trucking companies, as it turns out, are willing to give him a shot - even as most employers wouldn't consider a man his age. The only thing holding him back? Being away from his wife of 60 years.

LAKE MILTON, Ohio — Bob Blocksom, an 87-year-old former insurance salesman, needs a job. He hasn’t saved enough money for his retirement. And trucking companies, desperate for workers, are willing to give him one.

Age didn’t matter, they said. If Blocksom could get his "CDL" — commercial driver’s license — they would hire him for a $50,000 job. One even offered to pay his tuition for driver training school, but there was a catch: Blocksom had to commit to driving an 18-wheel truck all over the United States for a year.

So far, that has been too big of an ask for Blocksom, who doesn’t want to spend long stretches of time away from his wife of 60 years. "The more I think about it, it would be tough to be on the road Monday through Friday," he said.

Wages listed in the story ranged as high as $80,000 a year - plus benefits. And some companies say they're considering raises because that still isn't enough to appeal to young people. Already, WaPo says, companies like Amazon, General Mills and Tyson Foods are passing higher transport costs onto consumers. Wal-Mart even identified rising transportation costs as the biggest "head wind" facing the company.

"This is slowing down the economy already," said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. "If it takes me a week instead of two days to ship products from point A to B, I’m losing potential business."

Even with new federal regulations mandating that truckers log their hours so they don't breach the maximum 11-hour daily limit, being a trucker is a "hard job" that takes "a special breed" of person. New truckers often gain weight from sitting all day. The periods of separation often strain interpersonal relationships, and divorces are common.


Trucking is also surprisingly dangerous: There were more than 1,000 fatalities among motor vehicle operators in 2016, according to the Labor Department. That means being a truck driver is eight times as deadly as being a law enforcement officer. Obtaining a CDL also takes months of schooling and can cost as much as $7,000. Unsurprisingly, a growing number of candidates are failing the mandatory drug tests that are part of the application.

The community around TDDS is full of shuttered factories and bars named "Lucky Inn" and "Horseshoe." The steel mills closed in the 1980s, and a GM factory just announced more than a thousand layoffs. One of the only industries growing in the area is trucking, yet locals are hesitant to become truckers.

One man, a janitor, hanging out at Larry’s Automotive repair shop in nearby Warren, said his uncles were truckers and told him they would “kill him” if he ever got into the harsh business. The owner of the shop said he had thought about becoming a trucker but decided it wasn’t feasible after he had children.

Trucking jobs require people to leave their families for weeks at a time and live in a small “cabin” with a hard bed. Divorces are common, veteran drivers say, and their children forget them. A life on the road is often costly and unhealthy. Drivers sit for hours a day in diesel trucks and pull into truck stops that typically serve greasy hot dogs and chili.

Weight gain and heart disease are common, says Gordon Zellers, an Ohio physician who spends half his time examining truckers and administering drug tests, which increasing numbers of CDL applicants fail. He advises the TDDS students to see a nutritionist, but he knows most won’t.

Even companies that don't require their drivers to go "over the road" - that is, make long-term hauls - are struggling to recruit.

"These guys are like diamonds right now," said Jason Olesh, a vice president at Aim Transportation Solutions who left his family vacation to rush to TDDS to talk to students. “We’re down 90 drivers across our fleet of 650.”

Olesh gave his best pitch to the students: He offered them jobs that pay $70,000 a year with full benefits and regional routes hauling water to oil-drilling sites that would have them home most nights.

"I’m offering you a regular job with a 10- to 12-hour shift so you can see your kids," Olesh said.

The worker shortage has, unsurprisingly, led to a wave of poaching that has sent the industry's turnover rate to 94%. At this rate, companies and consumers better hope that Elon Musk succeeds with his goal to launch a fleet of autonomous trucks several decades ahead of schedule.


toady Sat, 06/30/2018 - 12:11 Permalink

Don't let'em fool ya, it's a race to the bottom in the trucking industry.

Shitty pay only getting shittyer, "independent contractor" = no beni's...

And they wonder why they can't find people to do the job....

LadyAtZero Handful of Dust Sat, 06/30/2018 - 12:40 Permalink

The employers *COULD*  look at having drivers work 3 days per week, or 20-hours per week.  

This older man could use the work, but he doesn't want to be away from home for days on end.  

Isn't that true for most of us?  

Why not figure out 20- hour work weeks for a HUGE number of people who don't have good retirement money, or who are parents  and can't be away from home that long, or simply don't want to be away from home that long.

Employers need to start thinking out of the box.

In reply to by Handful of Dust

Gaius Frakkin'… IridiumRebel Sat, 06/30/2018 - 14:05 Permalink

This is all BS. Pay more and they will come.

There was a deluge of people getting CDLs after 2008. I was one of them.

Many are still on the sidelines saying no thanks.

Also, the profession became flooded with other races and illegals. That combined with the insane regs drove all the good White men away. And let's not get started on the whorish women this society has created who can't go one period without opening their legs to a stranger when the husband is gone.

In reply to by IridiumRebel

toady Gaius Frakkin'… Sat, 06/30/2018 - 15:59 Permalink

Some of my family drive trucks, and there's always a new twist every time I see them...

Apparently, Canada is giving away cdl's like candy to every immigrant that shows up. Technically, they're supposed to take a single load into the U.S., and then get a load going back. Dems day rules.

But they don't. They spend months in the U.S..... I suppose it's to cover the work shortage from the article, but;

These guys from Libya and Syria haven't driven in snow. It snows and they're in the ditch. Or worse.


The eastern European dudes are just animals. Their cabs are like Neanderthal caves, and they just put it in gear and damn the torpedoes.

In reply to by Gaius Frakkin'…

thisandthat toady Sun, 07/01/2018 - 13:25 Permalink

Come to europe, then you'll know all about tiny cabins and shitty pay. On the plus side, you won't have to drive pre-war trucks (and by that I mean pre-ww2...), you'll always find time to do local tourism (whether you want to or not), and if you're not a total dick, you may even get an occasional gift wherever you're un/loading at.

In reply to by toady

cbxer55 Gaius Frakkin'… Sat, 06/30/2018 - 18:39 Permalink

I got my CDL in 99. Drove for six months, hated every frikkin minute of it. Most times, my days off, I was stuck in Timbukto in a run down fuckin truck stop without enough hours to legally drive home for a day or two. HATED IT! Gave up my CDL in 2014 at my last renewal, just so I won't be able to do that shit ever again! 


In reply to by Gaius Frakkin'…

claytonmoore50 Gaius Frakkin'… Sat, 06/30/2018 - 20:52 Permalink

"It's a tough job, though. Pay them what the market demands is the answer. Let the supply/demand curve work for a change."

You can tell when a job is paying too much and when it is paying too little.

Here the example:

When they have two fireman positions open, and the applicant line goes around the block. Job pays well, great benefits, mostly sit around and lallygag all day, but when you are called upon to work you are looked at like a hero.

When they have openings for 100,000 truck drivers, a job that will make it impossible to have a normal life, ruin your health and offer $50,000 p/year and they whine about not being able to fill the positions.

You NEVER hear about towns not being able to hire firemen, never have, never will...

In reply to by Gaius Frakkin'…

rejected IridiumRebel Sat, 06/30/2018 - 14:22 Permalink

"Offer immigrants quick passage to be a trucker for 5 yrs(no voting for ten)...."

Exactly what they're up to. An entire army of H1B truck drivers. 

Just like they say they cannot find professionals and need H1B they are working the same routine here...... and Americans will believe them. Soon you will find many Latin Americans on the US roads. They will work for the low wages. 

This is the last decent work for Americans trying to be lower middle class. They will destroy it like all the others by lowering the wage, then complain they cannot fill the jobs.  

In reply to by IridiumRebel

BidnessMan rejected Sat, 06/30/2018 - 14:29 Permalink

Art History and Gender Studies college grads should jump on this.  Triple what their degrees are worth at Starbucks. Especially females - they are fully equal to men these days I keep getting told.  A husband and wife team could save a huge amount living in the truck for a couple of years.  Home is where the truck is. 

Failing the drug test will disqualify many, but that is a personal choice.

In reply to by rejected

Theosebes Goodfellow BidnessMan Sun, 07/01/2018 - 00:31 Permalink

As with anything else, you have to have a plan. LH trucking firms' ideal driver teams are couples in the mid-30s and older with no children. You get two drivers for one, the wheels turn virtually non-stop, and the family life isn't an issue.

These semi truck haulers though compete with the hotshotters. Many drivers have figured out that it pays better to a) own your own rig, b) doesn't necessarily require it to be a full size rig, and c) doesn't have the rigorous hours that big truck driving has. Also, the load diversity makes the job more interesting. Ask any trucker and they will tell you it pays best to drive for yourself and own your own rig. Those pay scales can exceed $120k/yr, though w/o bennies.

In reply to by BidnessMan

vato poco stacking12321 Sat, 06/30/2018 - 13:05 Permalink

you boys ever notice, when stories like these arise ... "trucker shortage!" "machinist shortage!" "programmer shortage!" .... the mgmt of that industry trots out and mewls, 'we can't raise the pay because the costs to the public will rise, and the public just won't stand for it!!!'

and yet the comments here, as always, as *everywhere I go*, are the same: "pay 'em more, assholes. if we have to pay an extra dime per unit for the trucker to make decent money, fine." on ZH: home of the hardheaded smart guys!

y'know, I'm beginning to think a) mgmt is LYING and b) those conspiracy whackos might be on to something

In reply to by stacking12321

Moving and Grooving divingengineer Sat, 06/30/2018 - 14:41 Permalink

'a few cents'


For about 170 nanosecs. Then the virtue-signaling by Marketing kicks in, the packaging proudly announces 'American Labor!', the portion size drops 10%, and the price increases by 25%. They'll also use this opportunity to degrade the product with less-expensive materials and then finally off-shore the whole thing to Bangladesh. 



In reply to by divingengineer

GoozieCharlie vato poco Sat, 06/30/2018 - 15:10 Permalink

The key "business model" in almost all fields requires that there are just 2 or 3 people (that you never see) grab the first 90% of the profits and then go out in a golden balloon - all never revealed to those who would care to know that.  Getting to be that 2 or 3 people is an art.  You're born with that talent.  If not, tough. 

In reply to by vato poco

char_aznable gatorengineer Sat, 06/30/2018 - 13:49 Permalink

I just think handling for slick roads 6k+ feet up with only glimpses of visibility would make for an interesting computer program. Maybe it'll be programmed to pull over in trecherous conditions, except oh wait on all these mountain passes in america you have only a tiny shoulder and no barrier next to a 1500 foot cliff.. they might as well build new roads for self driving trucks. And they can then electrify those roads and put engines on it that can carry triple the load of trucks and hmm we should call these railroads.

In reply to by gatorengineer

tion char_aznable Sat, 06/30/2018 - 13:29 Permalink

Aw shit dude I was driving one of those big ass moving trucks with a danky tandem axle car trailer and blew a tire out in the mountains. Scary. After I managed to get back on the road I made it less than 10 miles before a semi truck a couple miles ahead rolled over and went up in a flaming smokeball, no shit. Slept on the highway that night.

In reply to by char_aznable

any_mouse char_aznable Sat, 06/30/2018 - 16:23 Permalink

Rain, Sleet, or Snow. The opposite of I-10 in Arizona.

The cost of autonomous driving in all weather is only affordable to a MICC powered by a FED.

Maybe if Production became decentralized and distributed, then long haul trucking would not be as vital.

Does the System serve Humanity or does Humanity serve the System?

In reply to by char_aznable

MoreFreedom stacking12321 Sat, 06/30/2018 - 13:53 Permalink

While I agree self driving trucks will eventually take over, it won't be for all trucking jobs.  A truck can't put on chains to go over snow covered roads (and many time those chains are required by law).  And it will be even longer before they can deal with issues like shifting loads or operating in adverse weather.  How's a truck going to determine those ice roads up in Canada are thick enough?

In reply to by stacking12321

AGuy stacking12321 Sat, 06/30/2018 - 17:24 Permalink

"pretty soon now, Tesla will have autonomous 18-wheelers making all the deliveries, there’ll be no need for human drivers."

Only if the figure out how to prevent their trucks from spontaneously catching fire, and not smacking into Red firetrucks. Maybe move thier factory production out of a tent.

In reply to by stacking12321

eastwind LadyAtZero Sat, 06/30/2018 - 13:35 Permalink

Because 20 hours isn't enough time to pick up a load of cars in Detroit, drive it to Salt Lake City, and drop it off, let alone drive back to wherever home is. A weekend of time off in some berg on I-whatever is still time away from home, not time at home.

When you're on the road all time time, you waste a lot of your time off because you can't do anything with it because you're not home. If you work 9-5 at some bank you can come home and fix a leaky toilet during the evening. If you drive a truck that leaky toilet has to wait for you to get home for a weekend.

Who wants to invest $7,000 in training for a job that will be eliminated by automation in 10 years? It's a dead-end job with a lot of negatives. 

In reply to by LadyAtZero

1033eruth eastwind Sat, 06/30/2018 - 19:26 Permalink

I'd bet you $7000 that that it will NOT be eliminated by automation in 10 years.  I'd also bet that $500 that you don't have $7000 to bet.  Why, you lack experience.

No insurance company is going to risk automated trucks (that means driverless) for a lot longer than 10 years.  So far, driverless cars are crashing and burning and ZH is constantly posting articles about them.  Trucking companies can NOT afford accidents because their insurance is bad enough as it is.  

Oh uninformed and inexperienced person, you'd be hard pressed to get any trucking job unless you have three years of verifiable driving experience under your belt.  You know why, that's what the insurance companies REQUIRE.  There are exceptions but they ARE NOT THE RULE.  

Automated trucks will have to have a babysitter for a VERY long time before any insurance company is going to take the risk.  Why?  Because trucks are basically weapons of mass destruction if the driver loses control.  

Its just a pointless task attempting to educate the mindless on ZH, 100% pointless.  

For instance, ten truck drivers with 20 years of experience could tell the ZH audience its not a tough job and the shills on ZH would downvote them.  "Tough" should not be a subjective term, but it is here on ZH.  If they are asking an 87 year if he wants a job driving a truck, then automatically you should UNDERSTAND, that trucking is not a "tough" job.  

In reply to by eastwind