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Trucking Firm Fights Driver Shortage

The H.O.W. logo of H.O. Wolding Inc. of Amherst, Wis. is proudly displayed on an expanding fleet of blue trucks hauling across the continental United States. But HOW is well known in the trucking industry in another sense – as in, HOW in the world are we going to find enough drivers to fill the current shortage and meet a growing demand?

“Competition for drivers is very intense,” said Don Wolding, president of the 75-year-old company. “The job is getting tougher all the time, with the new regulations coming down, and a workforce that’s getting greyer. It’s a combination of things.”

As a company, H.O. Wolding sees the answer in education. The training of a new generation of truck drivers at qualified schools and an aggressive recruitment program for the thousands of jobs available nationwide is essential. That’s why Wolding is taking steps to support such programs, with the donation of a truck to Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Truck Driving program.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates the current shortage of drivers to be in the 20,000 to 25,000 range, but warns that at current trends, the shortage is set to explode. Over the next 10 years, the ATA estimates 36 percent industry growth, with 37 percent retirements from driving. Combine that with a 27 percent expected non-retirement industry departure rate, and the need for new truck drivers is over 96,000 per year. ATA estimates the shortage at 239,000 drivers by 2022.

Local conditions make the problem worse in some areas. In the Chippewa Valley, for example, the explosion of the frac sand mining industry, supplying sand to fracture oil and gas wells, has created an intense demand for truckers. Sand companies are reportedly hiring hundreds of drivers at salaries in the $50,000 range for work that’s close to home.

“Ninety percent of the drivers prefer to drive locally and be home every night. It limits our ability to recruit drivers, and you have to pay them more too,” said Wolding.

Truck driving is an occupation that takes training and experience. There are a number of truck driving schools in Wisconsin. Among the best are those at the public technical colleges. Only Chippewa Valley Technical College, Fox Valley Technical College and Waukesha County Technical College offer the program.

CVTC graduates from 75-100 students an academic year in the program, through a series of
eight-week sessions, according to program Dean Tim Stanton. There are slots available for more students and jobs are likely waiting for them when they are done.

“This session we had 18, and room for 24 students,” Stanton said.

At a lot of driving schools, the funding is drying up,” said Wolding.

Believing it is in the best interest of the industry to do what it can to support truck driver education, Wolding recently donated one of its trucks to CVTC.