Wanted: Qualified Truck Drivers

He needs more drivers.

But Buck Thompson with W.S. Thomas Transfer out of Fairmont says, like trucking companies throughout West Virginia and across the United States, he is having trouble finding qualified people.

"It takes a special type of a person (to drive a truck)," and Thompson says that person must meet a list of requirements to even get started.

"With the safety nowadays and the roads are so congested, you’ve got to have good people behind the wheel and you just can’t hire any Tom, Dick or Harry and stick him in a truck and send him down the road anymore."

Despite the number of unemployed people in West Virginia, the unemployment rate was 6.9% in May, Thompson says he has not been able to hire several new drivers for three months now.

He’s even offering a signing bonus and shorter trips than the long hauls drivers for other companies face, giving drivers a chance to be home more.

"(And) There’s still not enough to fill our trucks," Thompson said.

He says there are a number of reasons why some of his trucks are sitting empty, including increased competition in Northern West Virginia from oil and natural gas companies.

"They’ve come in and they just pay a big amount of money and, of course, people go for it," he said.

W.S. Thomas has been in business since the 1890s.  Thompson says his father bought the Marion County company in 1949 and he started working there as a teenager.

Now, he says, truck drivers have to be at least 21 these days.  Thompson says he thinks some younger people, potential drivers, are starting out in other trades at 18 or 19 and then staying with them.

Nationally, there are indications the shortage of drivers is holding up some deliveries and driving up the cost of shipping.  The turnover rate, industry wide, is high.

The problem could get worse next year when new limits on driving hours take effect.

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