With the economy on the rebound, and a new administration in the White House promising fewer regulations and infrastructure improvements, it’s a great time to take up truck driving as a professional career.
2016 began with weak demand on capacity but by midyear a steady climb began in the load-to-truck ratios for vans, flatbeds and reefers. Economists and Industry analysts agree that 2017 is the beginning of a long stretch of growing demand on capacity that will stretch well beyond 2022.
This positive news is good for an industry that has battled with historically low freight volumes, diminishing rates, slim margins and increasing government regulations.
It has been a tremendous challenge for most trucking companies to be profitable during this difficult era following the financial crisis of 2009. Now that market trends are turning in favor of trucking companies, they are in a stronger position to sustain profitability and support stable employment conditions.
Qualified Truck Drivers are in High Demand
Trucking employs one of the largest workforces on the continent. The median pay in the United States is $40,000 per year with a high potential income of $70,000+ depending on experience and specialized work.
Yet, the industry is suffering a massive driver shortage that continues to grow. Analysts predict there will be 100,000 empty seats by the end of 2017. At present, the average age of a truck driver is about 49 years old.
The shortage is expected to grow dramatically in the coming years as an aging workforce reaches retirement. This places tremendous pressure on trucking companies to put more licensed operators in the driver seat.
To combat the shortage, trucking companies are starting to implement various strategies to recruit and retain qualified professional drivers:
- Improved home time
- Safe driver/performance related incentives
- Attractive driver benefits
- More 1st year advancement opportunities
These improvements in benefits and incentives will undoubtedly result in a higher quality of life for professional drivers.
The Future of Professional Truck Driving
The advent of autonomous trucks is another positive development for the future of both drivers and the industry as a whole.
It’s no longer a question of if trucks can be automated to drive by themselves, but more of a question of when they will become common on roads and highways across North America.
Experts and advocates of the trucking industry are playing down the notion that self-driving trucks will replace the need for a professional driver to be behind the wheel, stating that people will still be needed for complex maneuvers and oversight.
“You are not going to see a truck without a driver in it for a long time,” says Ted Scott from the American Trucking Associations. “The human being is an excellent driver 99.9% of the time. It’s just a tiny instance every now and then that causes a problem. Computers break down more than that.”
This then suggests that automated trucks will improve driver conditions rather than replace them. For instance, the 14-hour on-duty limit that currently restricts drive time and equipment efficiency could possibly lift the constraints that hampers a driver’s ability to “turn-n-burn”.
Theoretically, a driver could rest in his cab while the truck continues on route in autonomous mode eliminating the need to rest for 10 full hours while stationary. This has the potential to increase productivity while improving the quality of life for drivers.
Ensure Reliable Remuneration
As a qualified truck driver, you are in the envious position of being a sought after professional. It will be your choice between many trucking companies as to which employer to choose. Look for a trucking company that has financial stability to ensure steady and reliable remuneration.
Let’s face it, you work for wages. If a trucking company provides a great working environment and excellent driver benefits, but struggles to meet payroll, it probably is not the best company to sign up with.
Talk to drivers already employed with the company you are considering. Ask if they are paid without issue. Try to find out if the company is asset strong (owns its own equipment) or if they lease. The more working equipment they own without debt, the more stable their financial state.
Trucking is a capital intense industry that requires daily access to working capital to keep freight moving. A financially stable carrier will have a funding strategy in place to manage cash flow. This could be a commercial operating line-of-credit, private investor backing or a factoring agreement with an invoice factoring company for trucking.
Do your due diligence before signing an employment contract. Besides your health and personal happiness, there is little more disruptive to your wellbeing than an employer who fails to meet their salary obligations.
What’s stopping you from becoming a trucker? Share in the comments.