Truck-Driver Shortage Affecting Prices in Texas
By Era Sundar
A nationwide shortage of big-rig truck drivers is having an effect on Texas.
With unemployment running high, it may be surprising that there’s a shortage of qualified truck drivers in Texas. But John Esparza with the Texas Motor Transportation Association says the shortage is affecting the Texas economy.
“Even down to the price for a loaf of bread, what eventually happens, and is already starting to occur, is the price for everything goes up,” Esparza said. “The good thing that comes out of this for the great American truck driver is he or she is more of a free agent. Drivers are going to be commanding a larger salary.”
Even though truckers can make a decent middle-class living, the $4,000 to $6,000 cost of training for a commercial driver’s license can discourage some would-be drivers.
“Most trucking companies that hire new drivers to the industry, they’ll pay you back $150 to $250 a month up to the amount that it costs you to get trained,” said Bob Costello of the American Trucking Associations. “But again you’ve got to come up with that yourself or try to get financing for it, and that’s easier said than done right now.”
Costello says stricter government regulations may also contribute to the shortage. Since trucking companies are required to post driver safety records, many lay off drivers who have a less-than-pristine history behind the wheel. And other trucking companies aren’t quick to hire them.
Costello says the trucker lifestyle, which often requires being away from home for a week or more at a time, also turns away prospective drivers.
But efforts are being made to fill the driver shortage. “We’re seeing an unprecedented rise in popularity simply because we have the national companies that all will hire from our course, often times before someone even attends school,” said Rick Hidalgo, the truck driver training coordinator at Austin Community College.
Hidalgo says the oil industry boom in the Eagle Ford Shale and in West Texas is also increasing demand for drivers.