ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Arkansas and across the nation, companies are in desperate need of more truck drivers.
Shannon Newton, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association, said COVID-19 and the aging workforce has exacerbated the shortage.
“We’ve had a substantial amount of people leaving the industry either for early retirement or to take jobs that would keep them closer to home,” Newton said.
Newton said there are about 3,500 to 5,000 open truck driving positions in Arkansas. According to the American Trucking Association, there are about 80,000 openings across the country.
“There are some challenges with new entries to the industry, just the amount of training that is required and necessary in order to be able to operate a commercial truck,” Newton said.
Fewer truck drivers could mean longer shipping times for some items, but Newton said the supply chain is a complex system that is also heavily dependent on suppliers and ports.
CDL Academy is a truck driving school in Fort Smith. Founder, Max Avery, said the school is working to train the next generation of drivers.
“It’s a dangerous job, it’s a high priority one that has to be addressed with the utmost care,” Avery said.
However, federal vaccine mandates as well as individual company mandates could worsen the shortage of drivers.
“Certainly the threat of the federal mandates having a negative impact on attracting people to the industry or scaring people away from the larger employers and perhaps being used as a recruiting tool by the small trucking companies,” Newton said.
Newton said the Arkansas Trucking Association believes it is up to the employers to decide whether or not to mandate vaccine for drivers.