By Graysen Doran
Companies like Walmart are trying to attract more truck drivers by offering higher pay and an accelerated hiring process.
The effort has two tracks: Companies want to hire drivers who already have their commercial driver’s licenses. Programs like CDS Tractor Trailer Training are targeting aspiring truck drivers to enroll in courses offered at several community colleges in Virginia.
“The jobs are available. We just don’t have the drivers to fill them,” said Crystal Kennedy, a regional manager at CDS Tractor Trailer Training in Roanoke.
This month, Walmart increased its drivers’ all-in delivery rate to 89 cents per mile from 88. Walmart truck drivers can now earn about $87,500 a year.
Truck drivers make an average of $42,480 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent report.
Walmart has also accelerated its hiring process, cutting in half the time between candidates’ initial interviews and their driving tests.
Nearly 7.7 million businesses and 125.8 million households rely on trucks to move goods like cereal, napkins and clothing across the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ website.
Kariann Fedotoff, a manager at Cook Out in Lexington, said truck deliveries are critical to the fast food restaurant’s operation because it must use Cook Out brand products. If a shipment does not arrive, employees must drive to another Cook Out restaurant to borrow what they need.
The trucking industry has struggled with a driver shortage for 15 years, according to the American Trucking Associations’ Truck Driver Shortage Analysis in 2017.
The report estimates that by 2026, the industry could be short 174,000 drivers.
There are two types of courses for potential drivers, according to Virginia Western Community College’s website. Drivers who take the course full-time can earn their CDLs in as few as four weeks. Part-time students can earn their licenses in about three months.
“We’ve had folks come through here–former pastors with absolutely nothing on their background to we’ve even got a gentleman with a first-degree murder charge a job,” Kennedy said.
“The trucking industry is very forgiving as a whole,” she said.