Truck-driving schools look to recruit drivers, cut down on food costs

PHOENIX - As consumers make their way down the grocery aisle, they may notice some accelerating food prices. But, the blame for the increase is coming from an unlikely source: truck drivers.

General Mills is one of the most recent companies to cite shipping costs in their most recent financial report as a reason for profits not meeting their expectations. They write that shipping costs are at a 20-year high. 

Experts at the Southwest Truck Driver Training in Phoenix said the reason for the uptick in prices is because there are not enough truck drivers to keep up with shipping demands - 12 loads for every one driver is the new normal. 

Campus Director Steve Strong said there are plenty of reasons why we are facing a severe shortage. He cites aging and retirement, millennials not seeing this as a career and the untapped market of female drivers. 

"When you have a 900,000 shortage and you know, if you took all the training schools I think in the country, I think we trained 120,000 a year...it's going to be this way for a minute," Strong said.

But, there is a good side to the shortage: job opportunities. 

SWTDT offers 4- to 5-week courses for $4,500. After that, Strong estimates drivers can make upwards of $50,000 a year right when they take the wheel. 

Strong said they try to recruit a lot online and educate the public about what this career entails. They also host plenty of career fairs for students past and present. 

Cory Clark has only been in class at SWTDT for three days. But, he said that his email inbox has already been flooded with job opportunities for when he finishes off his truck driver training. 

"That feels great," Clark laughed. "Knowing that I can actually get a skill that is, you know, something that I can take for life and that people are like looking for that and it's in demand - that's really nice and exciting!"

Staff said that after seeing a dip in enrollment last year, this year's participants are on the rise - a good sign for the long road ahead. 

SWTDT has locations in Phoenix and Tucson. You can visit their website for more information. 

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