Going the Distance: High Schoolers Train to Drive 18 Wheelers Amid Job Shortage

by Shelby Scott
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The United States ongoing labor shortage has created hardships across multiple industries. Restaurants turn to robotic employees to fill the shoes of human employees. Meanwhile, one California high school has pursued a new route to meet the needs of the current truck driver shortage.

According to the NPR, Patterson High School in Patterson, CA is now training teens to enter the truck driving industry through its truck-driving program. The outlet stated the CA school is one of the first non-vocations in the U.S. to offer a program of its kind.

Like others across the country, the Patterson program aims to engage students with actual workplace skills through hands-on training. In addition to classroom learning, the truck-driving program also covers a “lab” section. The additional coursework allows the students to get actual training prior to pursuing a commercial driver’s license.

The program’s intention aims to combat the truck drivers shortage. However, other industry professionals claim it won’t help the issue at the heart of the industry right now. Steve Viscelli, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, states the true issue behind the truck driver shortage is retention. The sociologist claims, “There is no reason to think we’d have any different outcome. We’d simply chew through another cohort of even younger drivers.”

Truck-Drivers Have Seen Shortages for a Decade

The truck-driving industry has seen a major disadvantage among ongoing labor shortages among the coronavirus pandemic. While industries related to foodservice and retail are newly experiencing labor shortages, a 2015 study found the truck-driving industry seeing a need for 48,000 drivers.

Following the arrival of the ongoing pandemic, the industry sees shortages numbering as high as 68,000 drivers. Other industries painstakingly begin to pull themselves back up by the bootstraps and seek new help. Although, the truck-driving industry faces a major disadvantage.

Lindsey Trent of the Next Generation in Trucking Association stated that 25% of current truckers have approached the age of retirement or have come significantly close.

The issue becomes evermore troublesome as American Truck Associations reports that truck drivers move 72.5% of the United States’ freight by weight. NPR states several product shipment examples include oil, food, clothing, paper products, and vehicles. And these are only some of the most necessary products transported across the U.S.

Trent brings up a potentially scary situation should the truck driver shortage continue to ensue. The representative reports if shortages continue, 2028 could see the country lacking over 100,000 drivers. At this point, the shortage would become detrimental to shipment and transport.

Additionally, Patterson’s truck driving instructor, Dave Dein, reports that shortages potentially come from the negative associations truck driving has accumulated over the years. These include insufficient pay, unbearable hours, and dangerous work overall.

To combat these problems, Trent said, “We need good, safe drivers. Instead of [trucking] being a second or third career choice for people, we’re trying to be the first choice and really attract talent in our industry at a younger age.”

Outsider.com