CEDAR CITY, Utah — While many areas of the nation's economy struggle to produce jobs, the trucking industry appears to be alive and well in Utah.
Lecia Langston, regional economist for Southwestern and Central Utah, said she found 283 statewide job openings for truck drivers one day in late July on the Department of Workforce Services website. Those openings were for drivers qualified to drive large semitrailers. Drivers for lighter trucks are not included in that number.
"Once the economy picks up, you're moving a lot more goods, so the need increases," Langston said, noting that she has seen more need for truck drivers in Southern Utah.
Dan Ipson, vice president of Dats Trucking in Cedar City, said he estimated he could employ five or six more over-the-road truck drivers. The routes they would be driving would not span the entire country but would be regular routes throughout the western United States, and drivers could expect to be home at least three to four nights a week.
He said the number of new drivers is not keeping pace with demand.
"There's not a lot of young blood coming into the industry," Ipson said, adding that many trucking companies are looking for a new influx of young drivers.
Because his company's business is hauling petroleum, Ipson said his company requires drivers have at least two years of experience in addition to a CDL, or commercial driver's license.
Truck drivers in Ipson's company must also be certified for driving a tanker as well as for hauling hazardous materials, which are additional endorsements on the CDL. Drivers for Dats Trucking must also pass the scrutiny of the Transportation Safety Administration in terms of security clearance.
Richard Grainger, an instructor for the professional driving program at Southwest Applied Technology College, said even though many local trucking companies do not immediately hire graduates of the SWATC CDL program, there are several companies intending to employ students who complete the program. Those jobs are usually over-the-road.
He said Andrus Transportation, located in St. George, is one company that does take graduates straight from the SWATC program.
Grainger said companies do have constraints in hiring beginning drivers because insurance requirements limit the percentage of new drivers it will cover. He said staff members in the SWATC program tell students unless they have some connections, their first job will most likely be as an over-the-road driver for a large company because they are starting at the bottom of their profession.
He said an entry wage for a new truck driver is generally between $32,000 and $35,000 annually. Although the downside of life as an over-the-road truck driver is the amount of time they spend on the road, many young drivers are not concerned about that.
"They just want work; they want money," he said.
One of the students in the group Grainger is teaching now has told him he does not have a house or family to worry about at this time, so he just wants "to run."
Grainger said he tells his students to go into the trucking business with their "eyes open."
Langston said the overall unemployment rate for Utah at this time is 4.7 percent while the rest of the nation hovers at more than seven percent.
"We're certainly one of the better-performing states in the nation in terms of job growth, and all ours isn't based on oil fields," she said, pointing to the state's diverse economy.
Grainger said SWATC conducts classes in Cedar City and, with the cooperation of Dixie Applied Technology College, in St. George. The classes are six weeks long and a new one begins every three weeks.
Information from: The Spectrum, http://www.thespectrum.com