BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Delayed deliveries and high unemployment - nationwide, truck companies say a shortage of 18-wheeler drivers is taking a toll. Drivers say they're looking for work but new government regulations are preventing them from being hired.
Most companies are looking for experienced drivers with clean driving records. That's becoming harder to find according to Don McMahan, who's been driving for 17 years.
"Little tickets, we used to get just warnings. Warnings go on our work record now, on our history now," McMahan said.
He says the Department of Transportation has adopted new safety laws, meaning truckers are getting more tickets than ever for things like having a tail light out or not wearing a seat belt. McMahan says the law now says truckers must use hands-free devices inside their cabs. He says if they are caught on a cell phone, the driver is fined $2,750 and the company they work for could face fines of up to $11,000.
With that in mind, McMahan says no company is going to hire workers if that's what comes up on their driving record. He adds, that's just part of the reason for the slowdown in truckers taking on jobs.
"The economy's not good. Fuel is high. We're not getting the freight rates we need. There's not places to park. Trucks are hard to find."
Jean-Luc Cummins, the director at Diesel Driving Academy in Baton Rouge, says that means hiring experienced drivers may be a thing of the past and first-time drivers can take those jobs.
He says in six months time a person can be taught, licensed and leave with a $40,000 job.
"Because of the added government regulations companies are looking at hiring students," Cummins said. "They know that job is there for them, the shortage isn't going away anytime soon. So their prospects for future careers are great."
That is, if companies are willing to take the risk on new drivers.
One other factor for driving vacancies - older truckers are retiring, and with new laws on how long a trucker can be on the road, some of those newer drivers are often unwilling to be long-distance-drivers.