Memphis Trucker Training School Ramps Up to Meet Demand

The recent pace of development is making the existing trucker shortage worse.

The need for drivers moving forward the economy, medical supplies, food, etc. has been pushed to the front. Memphis is a crossroads for transportation. Trucking was always recession-proof, but it is now proving to be pandemic-proof.

Although the national unemployment rate has decreased steadily over the last few months and stands at 6.9%, it is still double what it was in March before the pandemic hit.(1) The rate for Tennessee is slightly lower than the national average at 6.3%, as of September 30, 2020.(2) One area that has been particularly hit and is facing a shortage of employment is truck driving. Recently announced expansion plans and a new downtown redevelopment project in Memphis will exacerbate the dearth of available drivers. “There was already a trucker shortage in the area, and the recent pace of development is making it worse,” says Brad Ball, President, Roadmaster Drivers School.

The problem lies in that these projects, as Ball points out, will all be heavily dependent on truck drivers, given the existing shortage, both in Tennessee and nationwide.(3) In September, moreover, Tennessee-based U.S. Xpress said it expected the shortage to worsen as the U.S. economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.(4) Meanwhile, truck manufacturers have announced an upsurge of orders for new heavy Class 8 trucks. Figures from key industry data source FTR Intelligence show September orders for new Class 8 trucks up 55% from August, and 160% from September 2019—a development FTR Intelligence interprets as a sign that a post-COVID economy is in sight.(5)

The demand stems from the national shortage to be sure but due to COVID-19, people are now spending more money on goods rather than services, travel, and hospitality. Therefore, the demand has come back strong across the nation as all goods move by truck. Peak demand for the holiday season started early. “Over the last 9 months, the need for drivers moving forward the economy, medical supplies, food, etc. has been pushed to the front. Memphis is a crossroads for transportation. Trucking was always recession-proof, but it is now proving to be pandemic-proof, especially in the Southeast and Midwest area,” Ball explains.

For these new trucks to perform their role in supporting the economy, of course, someone has to drive them. In Tennessee, notes Ball, to help ease the state’s trucker shortage—and, he adds, to help its students launch new, stable, long-term careers—the Roadmaster Drivers School Memphis campus, located in the nearby suburb of Millington, is forming new classes weekly. The training, he notes, is relatively brief: about four weeks from beginning to end.

While training is not inexpensive, it is much less than traditional forms of education and the demand for new drivers is such that workforce agencies and many trucking firms will pay for tuition through vouchers or tuition reimbursement programs.

Ball also notes that employers are actively seeking a younger and more diverse workforce than the traditional truck-driver image suggests. Major efforts are underway, for example, to make the profession more attractive to women. “the gender pay gap doesn’t exist in truck driving careers” and “This is a new day for an industry that’s vital to the U.S. economy and dependent on a steady stream of new, well trained, motivated drivers. If you’re not sure what you want to do next, trucking might very well be the right place for you.”

About Roadmaster Drivers School:
Roadmaster, headquartered in St. Petersburg, FL, is a nationwide training organization for truckers. They have more than 25 years of experience training more than 100,000 graduates with 13 training locations nationwide. By focusing on giving students the best education and maintaining high job placement standards, Roadmaster has gained a national reputation in the trucking industry for quality training of entry-level commercial truck drivers—noted for their training practices to be the most hands-on and safety-focused training in the country. For more information, visit http://www.roadmaster.com.

1.    Bureau of Labor and Statistics; PDF: The Employment Situation—October 2020; bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf | Accessed 24 November 2020
2.    Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development; “Tennessee’s Unemployment Rate Drops Significantly in September”; 15 October 2020; tn.gov/workforce/general-resources/news/2020/10/15/tennessees-unemployment-rate-drops-significantly-in-september.html
3.    Akers, Greg. Cognate BioServices plans $212M investment in Memphis ops, Memphis Business Journal, bizjournals.com/memphis/news/2020/11/13/cognate-bioservices-plans-huge-new-investment.html.
4.    Bailey, Tom. “Large, Mixed-Use Development Proposed for Midtown Gateway.” Daily Memphian, 31 Oct. 2020, dailymemphian.com/article/17814/large-mixed-use-central-yards-proposed-for-midtown.
5.    Huff, Aaron. “Fleets Preparing to Face a Driver Shortage ‘like It’s 2018 All over Again’.” Commercial Carrier Journal, 7 Oct. 2020, ccjdigital.com/fleets-driver-shortage-preparation/.

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