Mixed News About Truck Driving

By Yaffa Klugerman
November 9, 2009

Although many continue to flock to truck driving training programs, the recession is clearly taking its toll on the industry.

The Miami Herald reports that many see truck driving as a career which is always in high demand. Albert Hanley, president and director of the Commercial Driver's License School in Miami, noted that trucking is a "very secure industry, not one that is going to be outsourced. Fewer and fewer goods are produced locally, so there is a demand for transport."

Hanley also told the Herald that the field is a sure bet for many who are struggling because of the recession. "For a lot of people in this economy," he said, "and for those who lack education, it is probably the best blue collar job in America that's left."

Not everyone agrees. The Spectrum in Utah reports that at a recent gathering to express gratitude for truck drivers in honor of Truck Driver Appreciation Week, Terry Smith of the Utah Trucking Association noted that many drivers have experienced significant pay cuts. The reason: During financially unstable times, less freight is moved.

Russ Anderson, for example, a truck driver for Delta Valley Trucking, said that he had taken a 25 percent pay cut since September. "I'm hoping for it to pick back up," he told the Spectrum, "but I'm not holding my breath."

His experience is backed up by data from the Journal of Commerce [from an article originally located at http://www.joc.com/node/414500], which reports that the trucking industry lost 8,700 jobs last month. In August, there were 1.284 million people working in the trucking industry, and in October the number dropped to 1.27 million.

The City Wire in Fort Smith, Arkansas, likewise reports that the American Trucking Association noted the September truck tonnage index fell by .3 percent, and was down by 7.3 percent compared to last year.

Nevertheless, ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement that the industry "should not be alarmed by the very small decrease in September. . . . Between most economic indicators recovering and less of an overhang in inventories, I'm confident that the industry is still on the road to recovery."

The City Wire also points to other signs that the industry is in trouble: In October, USA Truck in Van Buren announced a net loss of $1.6 million in the third quarter, while Arkansas Best Corp. in Fort Smith announced a third quarter net loss of $5.6 million.

"We are now entering the fourth year of a severe freight decline that is unprecedented in our company's history," said Robert A. Davidson, president and CEO of Arkansas Best. "It is unclear when business levels will benefit from a significant improvement in our nation's economy."

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