The latest Alabama jobs report highlights a couple of things. One of them is, Mobile’s joblessness has grown to 6.6%. That’s much higher than the national average which is at 5%. And also in the report, nursing, retail, and truck driving lead the field of vacancies. In particular, trucking tends to be one of the highest paying jobs, so why such a shortage?
News 5 visited the Premier Driving Academy to meet with instructor Russell Pilling to learn more. Pilling showed us that driving an 18 wheeler with thousands of pounds of cargo can be as easy as learning to drive any other car. We tried and ran over multiple traffic cones. It’s obviously something that takes hundreds of hours to learn well. But then, there are other factors that become challenges.
“The trucking industry is thriving, it doesn’t take four years of college,” said Pilling.
He says learning how to drive an 18 wheeler hauling around 30,000 pounds of cargo is actually easy. But the other factors take time to adjust properly, such as the long hours on the road.
“There are a lot of companies that are getting people home every week some of our drivers leave here and stay local, and they’ll make 18-22 dollars an hour. Now do those jobs come in every day? No, they don’t.”
Long time truck drivers like Sam Hoffhein agree.
“I’m out 3 to 4 week a month, so I don’t get to see my family,” said Hoffhein.
And Hoffhein says it can also be treacherous driving through snow and ice, but it’s a job that would be hard to leave.
“If I could find something that pays as much money I’d be out of it in a minute,” said Hoffhein.
However, Hoffhein tells us hours and schedules improved over the years, so it became much more bearable. That’s what Cedric Williams hopes will happen for him.
“I was doing construction, I was doing tree surgery, I was doing fence repair,” said Williams who has tried a list of other jobs.
Pilling estimates new drivers can earn around 50 cents a mile, or as up to $50,000 a year.
“Well it’s very stable,” said Pam Ware with Mobile Works, a job training service.
Ware anticipates the demand will continue as some drivers burn out and leave, but she says, it’s usually for something that still requires a CDL.
“This can be a springboard to something else,” said Ware.
For now, Williamson for thinks this is it.
“I looked at my life, career, insurance and benefits that I can get from truck driving, and at my age, I saw that, that was the right course for me,” said Williamson.
To obtain a commercial driver’s license, it takes about a month of training. Courses cost about $5,000. In some programs, scholarships may be available.