Outlook bright for trucking industry careers

May 6, 2013

From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: “Outlook bright for trucking industry careers” — The improving economy means manufacturers are busy and need to get their products out to customers.

That means shipping goods out by truck, which translates to steady demand for both regional delivery as well as cross-country drivers. The state projects between 2,000 and 3,000 positions will be available annually in Wisconsin through 2020.

“The outlook suggests that (trucking companies) are looking aggressively to fill the needs they have,” said Jeff Sachse, a labor market analyst for the state Department of Workforce Development.

He said for the next several years, truck driving will be among the fastest growing job sectors in the state.

Numbers from Fox Valley Technical College’s truck driving program in Grand Chute suggests graduates have little trouble finding work. In 2012, about 94 percent of FVTC’s 173 trucking program graduates found a job within six months of graduation.

Rob Behnke, chair of FVTC’s truck driving program, said the college annually graduates between 200 and 215 drivers, who will have a commercial driver’s license after completing the program, which can take up to 18 weeks. FVTC, Waukesha County Technical College and Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire are the only three schools in the Wisconsin Technical College System that offer a truck driving program.

Today’s long-haul truck drivers on average are in their mid-50s to early 60s, Behnke said. Retirements during the next five years means demand for drivers only will increase.

“Opportunity is out there, especially for the entry-level driver,” he said.

Sachse said truck drivers only are one facet of a complex national logistics network. Demand also exists for warehousing and inventory specialists who can track cargo and ensure it arrives at its destination.

“Logistics in general is an area of strong demand because of the variety of jobs in that sector,” he said.

Dispatchers and people skilled in supply chain management are among the assorted jobs showing steady long-term growth, Sachse said.

Because Wisconsin is not a main distribution hub, but is home to many goods producers, those companies depend on the trucking industry to ship products, he said.

This has benefited Ashwaubenon-based Schneider National, one of the nation’s largest trucking companies.

“Manufacturing growth has a two to one impact on the trucking industry,” said Mike Hinz, vice president of driver recruiting at Schneider. “When the country is going through a manufacturing recovery, it means demand increases for raw materials and getting those finished products from the plants to distribution centers.”

Hinz said drivers in general should have little trouble finding work today. However, finding people to consider jobs in the industry can prove challenging.

The National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools reported people seeking training has dropped. The association said its members in 2005 were training about 18,000 students annually but by 2012 that number fell 22 percent to 14,000.

Behnke, who is president of the association, which represents about 130 schools nationally, said some prospective students find the working hours and the possibility of being away from home for extended periods a deterrent.

Hinz said Schneider partners with FVTC to recruit and train drivers. It also has relations with the military who works with service men and women seeking employment after completing a tour.

“We have to take multiple angles to find drivers but we want to make sure we’re out there telling people trucking is a viable career option,” Hinz said.

The Department of Labor said the average national annual salary for a truck driver in 2011 was $54,154. In Wisconsin, the average annual wage was $41,276.

Behnke said FVTC trucking program graduates, who get entry-level work, may earn close to $40,000 annually. Hinz said entry-level drivers at Schneider may earn between $39,000 and $42,000 annually.

Many students in FVTC’s truck driving program are people seeking second careers, those in their early to mid-40s. Behnke said.

Hinz said someone new to the industry but with a good work history is an attractive employee to Schneider.

“We do see a lot of second career folks but these people do bring other skills like problem solving and have been in many situations that can help them,” Hinz said.

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