Demand for truckers in Modesto, Calif. to last for the long haul

Modesto BeeOctober 31, 2011 

In an area with high unemployment and few opportunities, one profession has continued to have jobs for those willing and able to take the wheel.

Trucking, which nationally saw an increase from 1.26 million employees to 1.3 million from July 2010 to July 2011, continues to have high demand for drivers, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.

And the demand is increasing.

Rebecca Hough, an admissions representative at Western Truck School in Turlock, said the industry estimates that there will be a need for 320,000 new drivers over the next 10 years with an additional 219,000 drivers older than 55 retiring during that time.

That works out to about 54,000 drivers a year until 2021.

"The future in trucking is definitely bright," Hough said. "Because we are an agricultural area, the need for truck drivers is always present. There's always a shortage of drivers."

Yet as unemployment in the Northern San Joaquin Valley soared during the recession, there hasn't been a proportionate influx into trucking. Part of that is the nature of the job — long hours and long stretches away from home.

But for local residents tired of searching to no avail or working minimum-wage jobs, trucking is offering them an opportunity to shift their careers into the next gear.

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