Trucking Companies Struggle to Find Drivers

By Brenda Flanagan

Seventy-year-old trucker Don Davis knows his industry’s a keystone for the economy. But he has little confidence in today’s young drivers, calling them poorly trained and unmotivated.

“It’s just, guys that are not professional. That’s all they are. They just don’t care. They want to be a hot rod out there. And they hurt people,” he said.

Trucking companies need dozens of safe, competent, professional drivers now and business is expected to boom by more than 23 percent over the next decade. But regulations demand drivers with a proper license and a squeaky-clean driving record.

“It’s just the idea that they don’t train them properly,” said Davis. “You go over to New York State or something, you got snow. What do you do? ‘Oh that don’t mean nothin’. I’ll just keep going.’ All of a sudden you gotta stop and you realize you can’t.”

It’s a big problem for companies like Best Transportation. They’ve got 100 trucks, but only 80 drivers — who often get bogged down for hours in traffic waiting to offload at Port Newark.

“The trucking industry isn’t as appealing as it was years ago,” said Best Transportation owner Tom Heimgartner.

When Heimgartner started his company in 1982, the first truck cost $15,000 and drivers prided themselves on courtesy and competence. Nowadays, he said, “Young people are not attracted to the business. It’s long hours, they have to be drug-free. And it’s hard work. It’s not high-tech. They’re not playing with computers and stuff. They’re driving.”

“Not as many people are getting into trucking as a career, as they used to,” said Gail Toth.

Toth heads the New Jersey Motor Truck Association. She says new regulations that limit driving shifts to 11 hours, for safety reasons, means they need more drivers. And older truckers, like Davis, will be retiring.

The pay’s not fantastic.

“The average truck driver’s making in the high $40s, $50s, but it depends on what you do because there’s all types of trucking,” Toth said.

“People don’t realize that everything is moved by truck. All these years, it’s moved by truck, not by a train,” said Davis.

Bottom line — the trucking companies say fewer drivers means it’s gonna take longer to move the freight. That’s gonna jack up the prices and in the end consumers will pay more.