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What's fueling a shortage in professional truck drivers? Local driver weighs in on recent study

According to the American Trucking Association, more truckers are retiring out of the industry.

Posted: Aug. 8, 2018 10:48 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - The American Trucking Association says about 70 percent of trucks are carrying consumer goods throughout the country.

In the eyes of most drivers, it's more than just hauling items around from Point A to B. It's a lifestyle not many are equipped to handle.

News 10 caught up with Darrell Cook, a professional truck driver for Morris Trucking in Terre Haute. At the time of our interview, he was fresh off the road preparing for another trip that same day.

Cook worked at a power plant before starting a career in truck driving, which he's been in for several years.

"I was kind of thinking that being in the trucking industry, I would make a little better money," Cook said, "but it'd also be a little bit easier on the body as I go into retirement. I'm still wondering about that."

According to the American Trucking Association, more truckers are retiring out of the industry.

The ATA said its forecasted to be short more than 63,000 drivers this year. Those numbers add to the thousands of trucking job openings and less interest to fill them.

"Driving is different now than it was in the 50s, 60s and 70s," said Cook. 

Cook said that's part of the reason he feels the shortage continues to increase. 

"I think there's a lot of truckers out there that aren't getting the proper training that they need," he said, "Because this is more than just driving a truck, it's a lifestyle. You got to learn to be able to live in a truck."

Cook said his home away from home has been his truck for the last several years. Everything from his bed, food, clothes and even entertainment such as television are neatly organized in his cab.

"When I'm stopping for fuel, I'm also making plans on taking a shower at that time. Maximizing what I can do at that truck stop in a short amount of time," he said, "Being prepared if I'm stuck at a shipper, making sure I have plenty of water, food, stuff like that."

Cook previously worked for a larger company in Kentucky before making the switch to Morris Trucking, which is smaller. He said his previous job had him on the road for months at time. Working with Morris, he said he's able to be home, in Terre Haute, at least a couple of times out of the week.

"When we do our 34-hour reset we usually do it on the weekend here," he said, "That allows me time to do laundry, resupply, I like to shop at Baesler's."

The time away from family is also another factor to the shortage, Cook believes. For him, he's learned to make it work by staying connected with technology to keep up with his wife and daughters when he's away.

However, technology is also a reason Cook believes some are leaving the industry. That's after the recent ELD mandate requiring drivers to do away with paper logging for their hours.

"The 14 hour kind of limited guys," Cook said, "You can't stop and take a break when you want. You got 11 hours in the day that you can drive, so you're kind of racing the clock."

"You sit in this chair for 11 hours a day, it's hard on your circulation," he added, "That's another thing that ELD hurts because you can't stop. If you could stop every couple of hours, get out, walk around, stretch your legs and stuff it'd be better for your health."

As far as what can be done to ease the shortage, Cook said he'd like to see veteran drivers, who are on the way out, stay in the industry to help train the younger drivers.

"The senior drivers, maybe that are going out of trucking and thinking about retirement, could maybe think about moving to a training role and giving that back before they leave the industry," he said, "Not letting these trucking companies, the bigger trucking companies, be just driver meals. Don't just pump drivers out because we need them. Let's put good drivers out there that are going to be good for the industry."

While it's a job that comes with sacrifice, Cook said it's one that also comes with reward. He says his family and providing for them is one of the biggest motivators as to why he chooses to fuel up every day.

"I'm very proud knowing that I go out here and make an honest living to take care of them," said Cook.

"Truck drivers, they kind of get the finger pointed at them," he added, "and that's not the case, there's a lot of good drivers out there."

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