JANESVILLE, Wis. — Wisconsin trucking companies say big rig drivers are still in high demand.

Brandon Johnson owns Liquid Freight and Korth Transfer in Janesville. He’s also president of the International Milk Haulers Association.

Johnson said it’s difficult for trucking companies to replace outgoing drivers for several reasons — age restrictions is one of them.

He said drivers need to reach 21 years of age before they can conduct interstate trucking, however insurance companies are not so willing to cover them until they’re at least 23. Johnson said it's another big reason companies like his in Wisconsin are actively hiring drivers.

“COVID really developed quickly our world of getting things delivered,” he said. “The pool of where they can go for a workforce got diluted extremely quickly by Amazon hiring, UPS hiring, FedEx hiring more.”

IMHA executive director, Cherie Hime, said the organization surveyed members to see how if the shortage has worsened and by how much from last year. Hime said results showed companies lost anywhere between 5% to 15% of their drivers.

“Those who have CLDs in the office dispatching are now driving to fill the need," Hime said. “It’s more work for the people in it.”

Phil Friend is a truck dispatcher in Janesville and works for Johnson. Friend said he still drives when he needs to.

“It’s just something about being in the cab that just makes you feel you’re in control, and the compensation isn’t all that bad either,” Friend said about the job.

Friend added that the work hasn’t been more stressful. If anything, he said, it’s been calmer on the road since the pandemic began, even with increased workloads. He said he feels younger people should consider a career in trucking. He has no regrets in doing so.

“Food has to move,” he said. “You’re guaranteed a job.”