JACKSON, Miss. — Like other states, Mississippi suffered a population decline in 2020, losing a net of 11,000 residents. On the employment front, despite a slight recovery from economic losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest federal employment report shows that Mississippi lost 7,000 jobs in January.
According to Brad Ball, president of the Roadmaster Drivers School, these declines mask a challenge: a national shortage of professional truck drivers. “There are people who need jobs, and jobs who need people,” said Ball.
The longstanding national truck driver shortage has recently worsened. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show a shortfall of 65,700 drivers for 2020, compared with 2019. Meanwhile, e-commerce, driven by mandated stay-at-home orders, continue to skyrocket, increasing 44% in the U.S. in 2020. E-commerce growth is dependent on matching growth in retail logistics and delivery capability, requiring steadily increasing numbers of truckers.
On the local level, more than 85% of communities in Mississippi rely exclusively on trucks for the delivery of everyday goods. The state’s professional truck drivers travel more than 4.5 billion miles per year to deliver everything Mississippians communities rely on, including food, medication, clothing, and gasoline for their cars.
A career in trucking does not require college training. Applicants can either produce a high school diploma or pass a basic entrance exam. Unlike other opportunities for high-school graduates, such as fast food or retail, trucking offers secure employment, higher income and a career path, Ball said.
According to Ball, trucking is an increasingly diverse industry and one with no pay gap tied to race or gender. A recent American Trucking Association study shows that over 40% of U.S. truckers are now minorities.
Training is about four weeks from beginning to end. In comparison to other educational opportunities, truck driver training is less expensive. Ball said that the demand for new drivers is such that many trucking firms will reimburse students for tuition once hired.
A new Roadmaster Drivers School is set to open in May to address these concerns.
City officials, prospective students, and the general public are invited to the opening of the new Roadmaster Drivers School facility at 1500 West Highland Drive, Jackson, MS 39204.
The opening will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, May 14 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 15.
“Trucking is the opportunity on wheels for thousands of soon-to-be-hired truck drivers,” Ball said.