The Trucker Chronicles

MINNEAPOLIS — In May’s otherwise-bleak jobs report, one sector of the economy stood out for all the right reasons: The trucking industry is running full speed ahead and hiring drivers.

“We can’t get trucks, and that means there are not enough drivers,” said Mike Mady, human resources director for the St. Paul, Minn.-based produce processing firm J&J Distributing, which supplies Cub Foods and other grocers with carrots, potatoes, yams, and other vegetables and fruits.

Truckers are in hot demand, say trucking and warehouse executives. The American Trucking Association reported this week that trucker turnover is at a four-year high, signaling demand for the most experienced drivers.

Last month, J&J, which normally has about 220 workers, added two new Class A drivers and two interns and scooped up seven workers from a temp employment agency because demand for fruit and vegetables is way up.

The reason? Crops are ripe, and a wider array of summer fruits are in demand, J&J officials said.

“Getting merchandise from the West Coast and East Coast to here is difficult because there are not enough drivers — so there are new opportunities for people wanting to get into trucking, for sure,” Mady said.

Sherman McCallister is one of them. It took him 15 weeks to find a new job after being laid off from another company. McCallister credits the fact that he has a truck driver’s license and driving experience from when he lived in Chicago. He was hired at J&J on May 1 and now delivers produce to Cub Foods and SuperValu locations up to 275 miles away.

“I was surprised by getting the job in just four months,” especially as friends in other industries endured painful layoffs lasting nearly two years, McCallister said. “There is a big demand for experienced drivers.”

Companies such as C.H. Robinson, Copeland Trucking, Murphy Warehouse and others echoed their own hiring bursts. The activity is showing up in economic data. The U.S. Department of Labor reported a gain of just 69,000 non-farm jobs nationwide in May. But more than half the gains came from transportation and warehousing.

Truckers are enjoying renewed demand from the spike in summer construction projects, manufacturing, the return of the auto sector and a bump from select real estate markets.

Special Thanks to the Lansing State Journal, original article – http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20120616/BUSINESS/306160005/1004/NEWS03?nclick_check=1

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