Big demand for truck drivers in region

LIMA — Geographically speaking, Lima/Allen County is strategically located in West Central Ohio, making Lima/Allen County the mecca for shipping to a number of major markets.

With a location near U.S. 30 and Interstate 75, as well as being halfway between Dayton and Toledo, the area serves as a hub for travelling north, south, east and west. Thus our area is thriving in the trucking industry.

“The trucking industry is continuing to grow,” said Scott Cockerell, vice president of sales and logistics at Wannemacher Logistics.

While the industry is growing, one factor that hurts the trucking profession are the stigmas related to truck drivers, such as being gone every night of the week, that you have to be old with a big beard and not bathe or that truck drivers don’t make good money.

“That’s not the case anymore,” said Scott Ritchie, director of safety and recruiting at Garner Trucking in Findlay.

Cockerell added, “The potential to make good money is there for a truck driver.”

According to a Roadmaster article, truck drivers could make more than $40,000 in their first year as a truck driver with a commercial driver’s license. They have job security and various opportunities for travel.

With a lot of truckers retiring, a real problem is shortage of drivers to fill the Baby Boomers’ seats.

“I was just reading the shortage will be 175,000 nationally. That’s a lot of drivers. They need them everywhere,” Cockerell said. “Finding drivers is incredibly difficult right now. It’s a drivers market.”

The one constant hurdle for hiring drivers is the age requirement to drive on interstate. A person must be 21 years old to drive across state borders.

“Just living in northwestern Ohio makes it tough, with Indiana and Michigan being so close. It’s hard to not cross the lines,” Ritchie said.

“The thing is the 18 to 20 year old segment usually has the highest rate of unemployment of any age group, yet this segment our industry cannot accept. They’re on their career path for three years, as they’ve been out of high school, and most of these people have found either a warehouse position or a manufacturing facility position before they could possibly be a truck driver,” Cockerell said.

Trucking companies are delving into new ways to attract the younger drivers.

“We rely on word of mouth; that’s always good,” Cockerell said. “We have signs out in front of our building, and we have hundreds of trucks coming in daily, and you never know if that driver coming in will see the sign and think that this would be a good place to work.”

Wannemacher Logistics touts new equipment, benefits, home nightly and decent pay, Cockerell said.

While word of mouth is good, Garner Trucking does a lot more online and social media advertising.

“That helps draw the younger crowd. We don’t do much of the old school advertising of a cent per mile; we’re doing a lot more of the bottom line amount they could expect to make in a year,” Ritchie said. “They seem more attracted to the bigger number rather than the weekly number.”

Ritchie finds that asking poignant questions helps in enticing people into the truck driving field.

“I really sell to the ‘are you making this amount of money?’ ‘Do you have a guaranteed job if your company closes?’” Ritchie said.

Garner Trucking also holds a Touch-A-Truck event where parents can bring their children and put them up in the semi.

“They can push all the buttons and whatnot, except for the start button,” Ritchie said.

They are hoping kids will grow up wanting to be truck drivers.

Ohio Logistics in Findlay goes to the truck driving schools, as well as relying on word of mouth. Ohio Logistics has also seen a lot of retired drivers coming back to the company.

“They’ve retired for a while, and they’re bored from at home, or their wives are tired of having them at home, and they’re actually coming back,” said Michele Killian, Ohio Logistics human resource administrator. “I’m quite heavy in the Baby Boomers and the Gen X than I am Millennials in that area.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the transportation industry is trying to attract younger workers, making this a good time to get into the profession. Trucking today employs about 10 million people. That’s expected to increase with increasing demand for goods that need to be shipped.

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Wannemacher Trucking on East Hanthorn Road in Lima tries to attract commercial drivers through word of mouth, such as this sign hanging at its facility. Trucking on East Hanthorn Road in Lima tries to attract commercial drivers through word of mouth, such as this sign hanging at its facility. Craig J. Orosz | The Lima News

By Merri Hanjora

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Reach Merri Hanjora at 567-242-0511