Pandemic fuels nationwide shortage of truck drivers

K-Limited Carrier is a Toledo-based company hoping to hire dozens.
The industry is short an estimated 60,000 drivers right now
Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 4:13 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - If you’ve ever thought about getting behind the wheel and driving a truck for a living, there are a lot of opportunities available right now. In fact, there’s a nationwide need for more than 60,000 additional truck drivers.

The shortage is nothing new, but the pandemic certainly exacerbated the situation. Because of the shortage, many companies are offering incentives to hire new drivers, and to keep the ones they already have behind the wheel.

K-Limited Carrier is a Toledo-based trucking company that’s been in business for nearly 25 years. There are 130 employees at its operations in Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois. 2020 was certainly the most challenging year on the books.

“January and February of last year were very strong. They were some of the best months we had ever seen,” says CEO Dean Kaplan. “However, in mid-March, we started to feel the effects of the pandemic. In April and May of 2020, business was off by 60%.”

Like most other trucking companies, K-Limited is hiring.

“We would love to have another 20-25 drivers hired,” says Kaplan. “It’s a long-term task. It is very difficult. It is not going to be an easy or overnight fix. It will likely take years.”

The company hauls hazardous materials which adds another layer to its search for drivers.

“As much as we talk about new hires, we are focused just as much on the retention of existing drivers,” says Kaplan. “We take care of them. We treat them well and we provide good benefits.”

Kaplan says the nationwide shortage is fueled by a number of factors. That includes an aging workforce, retirements because of the pandemic, and a federally mandated drug and alcohol clearinghouse program. He says it’s been impacting the business for three or four years now, and it is an issue that impacts a multitude of other industries.

Kaplan is hopeful that a focus on vocational and technical schools will help ease the problem.

“We’re starting to come out of it, but we have a long fight to come,” says Kaplan. “We’ll have to solve it one driver at a time.”

Kaplan says during the pandemic there was a significant drop in training to get a CDL, or commercial driver’s license. He says about 20% of truck driving schools are still closed at this point.

Estimates show the driver shortage could reach 160,000 by the year 2028.

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