Trucking is important to Iowa, and Iowa carriers are very proud of the important role they play in serving this state every day. The professional men and women behind the wheel of the truck are the foundation of Iowa’s trucking industry. Every single one of us is affected daily by these professionals.
To see how a truck driver affects your life, look around at the products in your home, your office or the food you consume every day. Professional truck drivers are responsible for ensuring that you have what you need, and that is a significant responsibility.
Agriculture and manufacturing are equally dependent on trucks. Every day, trucks move over 350,000 tons of Iowa products. Additionally, more than 70 percent of Iowa communities rely exclusively on professional truck drivers for the delivery of essential daily products.
According to data just released by the American Transportation Research Institute, the Iowa trucking industry pays over $4.3 billion in wages to employees each year. With over 98,000 trucking jobs in Iowa, that amounts to an average salary of almost $44,000 per each individual working in the industry. One in every 13 jobs in Iowa is in the trucking industry.
Professional drivers are no different from you or me. They have families that are counting on them, they have communities they support, and they have chosen a career that brings them great satisfaction, personal pride and pays the bills and then some. For many drivers, a career behind the wheel of a big truck is appealing because it doesn’t require accumulating a lot of debt and years of classes. Instead, after a relatively short amount of time for training, they can be earning a respectable income while enjoying the freedom and beauty of the open road.
However, the demands put on a professional truck driver are much more rigorous than the average employee. The job is hard, and sacrifices are made daily. But for the more than 4 million men and women nationwide who proudly call themselves professional truck drivers, they are OK with not having an easy job. Instead, they are proud to have an important job.
And jobs are plentiful — there isn’t a trucking company in Iowa that isn’t hiring. Attracting and retaining professional truck drivers has been an ongoing issue for the trucking industry. Unfortunately, we have more drivers leaving the industry than entering the industry, and that has been a trend for quite some time. There are many factors that contribute to this trend, but the trucking industry instead focuses on attracting drivers into the industry.
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Trucking companies of all sizes are offering good-paying jobs and attractive benefit packages. Trucking executives recognize the value of their drivers, and we are seeing a variety of unique and effective programs that are significantly affecting driver retention. Companies recognize the need to work with drivers to get them home more often and create an environment that enables them to fulfill the duties associated with being a good spouse and parent while also being a truck driver. Companies also are investing in new equipment, ongoing training and state-of-the art technology to further attract drivers of all ages and backgrounds.
There also is a nationwide conversation unfolding about the value of apprenticeship programs. These programs are especially attractive to 18- to 21-year-old drivers, which would allow this driver population to go beyond state lines. Titled the Drive Safe Act, this proposal would go a long way in recruiting efforts at the high school level. Today, these efforts are compromised significantly because these young and enthusiastic potential recruits are limited to driving within the state of Iowa. Other trades have seen positive results with apprenticeship programs, so why not do the same in the trucking industry?
The opportunities are endless in the trucking industry, and an abundance of good-paying jobs will continue into the future. Here in the heartland, we have an innate desire to work hard, take risks and be valued employees while relying heavily on our honesty, integrity and commitment to professionalism. That is what you will find in today’s trucking industry. Smart, hard-working men and women who enthusiastically embrace the tremendous responsibility that is required to move this state and nation daily — that is the professional truck driver.
If you want to be a part of this great industry and have a fulfilling and rewarding career in serving this state and nation, consider getting behind the wheel of a truck.
• Brenda Neville, CAE, is president and CEO of the Iowa Motor Truck Association.