- Truckers say the industry’s huge labor shortage is no surprise.
- They attributed it to time away from family, low pay, and the experience of living in a truck.
- One trucker said he spent more time video chatting to his family than seeing them in person.
Truckers aren’t surprised that trucking companies are struggling to recruit and retain drivers.
“Everything about [trucking] is bad,” Leo Allseitz, a trucker of two years in Missouri, told Insider.
Truckers told Insider that prolonged periods away from home, coupled with generally low pay, had made it an undesirable job.
“It’s not even a profession, it’s a lifestyle,” Joe Katterman, a trucking instructor in Nebraska, said.
“I have a three-year-old daughter that I’ve literally watched grow up over video chat,” he said. “I spend more time video chatting my family than I do actually time with them.”
“It feels more like this is your life and when we go home, that’s just a small portion of your life,” Chris Chilton, a trucker in Alabama who has a wife and kids at home, said. “It’s a big sacrifice to be out here. You miss a lot of things.”
Eric Sloop, a trucker in Washington State, said it didn’t surprise him “in the least” that the industry was struggling to fill jobs.
Sloop said he was usually away for three weeks at a time, covering around 2,000 miles, before returning home for three-and-a-half days. For over-the-road truckers, those who haul freight over long distances, this is a fairly standard working pattern.
Truckers are legally allowed to spend up to 11 hours a day driving, and a further three hours on other work tasks.
“You can’t do anything except work” when you’re on the road, Roberts said.
The truckers said that when they were on the road they largely had to live in their vehicles, which Katterman described as a “moving jail cell.” Some stay in hotels while others, like Katterman, sleep in their trucks.
Allseitz said that truckers have poor diets because they have to rely mainly on pre-made meals from stores and fast-food chains. He said that some truckers keep grills in their vehicles, but that this was “terrible” when it was bad weather.
“It takes a special type of person who can be away from home for weeks at a time and some just can’t take it,” said Ralph Roberts, a former trucker in Arizona who left the industry three years ago after a workplace accident.
Roberts said that he was hoping to get a job either driving locally or in the fracking industry, and that he’d rejected multiple job offers for over-the-road driving. “I don’t want to sleep in the back of a truck anymore,” he said.
Many companies have dangled huge hiring bonuses to attract new workers to enter the profession and encourage truckers to switch companies.
But most of the truckers Insider spoke to said that their take-home pay had hardly changed amid the trucker shortage and that they weren’t paid enough.
Trucking companies “aren’t willing to pay drivers what they’re worth,” Frederick Hall, a trucker in Georgia, said. “Drivers would like a piece of the cherry pie too. I’m not out here for my health.”
“It’s just not much compensation at all for somebody making $50,000 a year, not being able to see their kids grow up,” Allseitz added.
But not all the drivers were pessimistic about the industry. Sloop became a trucker nine years ago and said it’s much better than his previous “dead-end job” in the lumber industry.
“I feel I’m paid very well for what I do,” he added.
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