Friday, June 29, 2018

Severe shortage of truckers could undermine economy

America's severe shortage of truckers is getting so serious that economists say it could hurt the economy, Heather Long reports for The Washington Post.

How bad is it? At TDDS Technical Institute, an independent school in Ohio that trains truckers to get commercial drivers' licenses, longtime teachers say they've never seen it this bad, and that there are close to 100,000 truck driver openings. Trucking companies are offering huge raises to lure more people into the field. "Recruiters who show up daily at TDDS are offering jobs that pay $60,000 to $70,000, with full benefits and a $4,000 signing bonus," Long reports. "People with CDLs suddenly seem as coveted as computer programmers."

While that's good for truckers, economists worry that the increased costs of product distribution will be passed on to the consumers who buy those products. If it happens quickly enough, the country could see substantial inflation that could easily lead to a recession. "This is slowing down the economy already," Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, told Long. "If it takes me a week instead of two days to ship products from point A to B, I’m losing potential business."

But trucking is a tough job, and it may take even more incentives and higher pay to make it worthwhile for enough people to meet the nation's needs. It's one of the most dangerous professions in the country, with more than 1,000 fatalities on the road in 2016 alone. It's lonely, too: truckers are often away from their families for weeks at a time, and divorce is common. And it's often expensive and unhealthy, with drivers sitting still all day and eating greasy truck stop food. Gordon Zellers, an Ohio physician who works with truckers often, told Long that truckers frequently face gain weight and develop heart disease.

And beyond the physical and emotional difficulties of the job, trucking faces stiff competition from construction and manufacturing industries, which are also on hiring sprees, Long writes. Construction and factory jobs don't usually require extra school, but potential truckers must attend several weeks of school, which costs up to $7,000, to get a commercial license.

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