LOS ANGELES — In a frequently referenced report, The American Trucking Associations estimates that this year the truck driver shortage will surpass 80,000 drivers. Some point to this as a big reason for the historic backlog at the ports; however, others say the industry has deeper issues not just recruiting but also retaining drivers.
What You Need To Know
- Some link reports of a truck driver shortage with the historic backlog at the San Pedro Bay Port Complex; however, others say the industry has deeper issues, and simply going after new drivers will not be enough
- The California Department of Motor Vehicles will nearly double its capacity to conduct commercial driving tests
- While this is intended to relieve some of the port backlog, the Executive Director of the Port of LA said driving must become a more appealing option first
- Systemic inefficiencies cut into the paychecks of port truck drivers
Parallel parking is hard for most people, but adding a 20-foot trailer to the mix makes it a lot trickier. That is why Lewis Eugene watches and shouts from the sidelines as an instructor at the Aztlan Trucking School and shares wisdom he gained from when he was behind the wheel.
“It’s a serious job. You’ve got to be focused, rested and know what you’re doing,” Eugene said.
Oscar Davis is one of his students. He is taking classes almost every day because he wants to get his commercial driver’s license before the end of the year.
“I’m excited and I think I’ll be able to handle it pretty good,” Davis said.
It is a career switch for Davis, who worked as a mechanic for a long time. Over the years, stories from his customers about better pay and more stability have tempted him.
“I’m not making enough money to take care of my family. I figured if I’m working 12 hours I can make a little more money driving trucks,” he said.
To make it easier for people like Davis, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will nearly double its capacity to conduct commercial driving tests. Thousands of additional slots are opening on Saturdays at multiple locations.
While the move is intended to relieve some of the port backlog, the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, Gene Seroka, said driving must become a more appealing option first.
“There’s no shortage of folks who have the credentials. We need to find a way to create a profession once again in the truck driving community to attract, recruit and retain folks,” Seroka said.
Back when Eugene was driving to and from the ports, his paycheck was largely dictated by how many loads he could deliver. Thus, any kind of slowdown would directly affect his bottom line. Recently some truckers have reported waiting multiple hours to get into one harbor terminal.
“I don’t know how much better it is now, but back then, it took too long to get a load," Eugene said. "The other thing is it took too long to get rid of the empty."
Despite his teacher’s warnings, Davis is optimistic.
“I’ve been kind of watching the news and seeing how backed up it is," Davis said. "I think I’ll be able to be [an] extra help, contribution to the situation."
One more driver on the road is one more link in the supply chain.