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Wanted: 400,000 truck drivers

By Chris Isidore, senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Can't find a job? Maybe it's time to take your search on the road.

The U.S. trucking industry will need to hire about 200,000 drivers by the end of this year, and will need to add another 200,000 by the end of 2011, according to the state of logistics report from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.

A number of factors will feed into this need for drivers, including retirements, tougher safety regulations designed to get drivers with bad records off the road and the need to replace drivers who were laid-off during the recession, according to the report. Overall the industry lost almost 150,000 driving jobs since the start of 2008.

Rosalyn Wilson, the author of the report that was sponsored by Penske Logistics, said that even with continued high unemployment, motor carriers are going to face a challenge finding drivers needed over the next year and half.

"It's not a very attractive profession," she said. "People want jobs, but they also want their quality of life, to be home with their family at the end of the work day."

The median pay for a trucker stood at $37,730 in May of 2009, and Wilson said that wage probably fell in the last year as miles driven were reduced. But more miles and the driver shortage are likely to increase wages in the years ahead, she said.

Wilson said during the recession trucking companies were in the unusual position of having significantly more job applicants than they had positions, as laid-off truckers and construction workers applied for jobs. But that surplus of applicants has started to wane with a pick-up in the economy in recent months.

"We're already seeing shortages in some markets," she said. "As traffic starts to climb, we're likely to see the shortages get worse."

The forecast is for only a 4% to 6% growth in freight traffic for trucks this year and next, which Wilson says is a conservative estimate. Typically freight grows by about 10% coming out of a recession, she said.

"How much of a driver shortage we have will depend on how much the economy picks up," she said.

But she said that broader demographic factors will make driver shortages an issue for years to come, regardless of the strength of the economy. About one in six are age 55 or above.

"We're going to need 1 million drivers in next 15 years just to deal with replacing retirees and the normal growth of freight," she said. To top of page

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