THOUSAND PALMS, Calif. - A tough economy has forced many to turn down potential employees, but one industry can't get enough people to fill their jobs. The Truckload Carriers Association reports there are as many 200,000 job openings nationwide for long haul truckers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also sees the demand for truckers increasing, up from the 1.5 million drivers on the road now. It expects trucking add 330,100 jobs between 2010 and 2020.
Mike McManama's been driving trucks for more than 35 years. He says it's more of a lifestyle than a job, and that's what keeps people away. "Most people don't understand that just sitting for ten hours, isn't the easiest thing in the world, and that's what you need to do if you're trying to make money," said Mcmanama.
Another reason is the process it takes to get certified. A commercial driver's license requires a training course that's up to eight weeks long and costs about $6,000. If drivers pass, they can then earn a decent paycheck. The Bureau of Labor reports the average truck driver earns $4,000 more than the median wage for any other job, but that also comes at a price.
"It is a big sacrifice, I have three children, I don't get to see them as often as I like," said truck driver Demetrious Clark.
"It's hard I got three kids myself and a wife," said truck driver Robert Diaz. "I enjoy being home a lot but I guess I provide a good living for my family."
The time away from family isn't the only lifestyle change, drivers must get used to sleeping in the small cabin of their trucks. A California law prevents drivers from leaving their engines on while sleeping, leaving them to the elements. "We have no heater, no air conditioning, whatever the weather is you have to deal with," said McManama.
Experienced drivers also deal with shrinking paychecks because younger drivers are willing to work for less. "When they're fresh out of school, they work for 25 to 29 cents a mile, and us older drivers aren't willing to work for so little," said Diaz.
Despite the speed bumps, Clark says there's plenty of reasons to keep doing the job she loves. "I get to see all the country, travel all over the world, peace of mind, I like to travel."