WHITE CITY, Ore. – A help wanted sign sits outside F V Martin’s truck lot in White City, while a line of empty trucks sit on the other end of the fence.
In an industry where an empty lot is a sign that business is doing well, the sight is hardly welcome.
“We have more business than we can handle,” said Doug Sabin, Safety Director with F V Martin. “We’ve got the trucks, but we don’t have the drivers.”
Sabin handles hiring for the company. He says the talent pool has been dry for about six months to a year. Meanwhile, strict emissions standards in California have forced them to upgrade much of their fleet.
As a result, the entire trucking industry in the area has had to raise its prices 15-20%.
“The cost of drivers has gone up, the cost of insurance has gone up, the cost of fuel has gone up, we have to translate that to the customer,” said Sabin.
In the Rogue Valley, 30% of employees work in traded sector businesses, meaning they rely on transportation of physical products. More than a third of the valley’s businesses are in natural resources and mining, construction, manufacturing, or trade.
Local economists say if the transportation those companies rely upon hits a bottleneck, it affects everyone.
“You see this bumper sticker on the back of trucks saying, ‘if you ate breakfast this morning, a truck brought it,’ said Ron Fox, Executive Director with Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development, Inc. “It takes a lot of transportation to keep an economy like ours going.”
Reports from the Oregon Labor Market Information system predict the Rogue Valley will add nearly 300 truck driver jobs by 2020 to meet the demands of those customers. Sabin says those positions will be hard to fill, not because of a lack of applicants, but a lack of qualifications.
Local companies like F V Martin typically require two years of experience, but in return drivers are able to work day shifts, have weekends off, and never have to leave for days on end. The problem, he says, is that most are unwilling to work the two years of entry level shifts in order to make it there.
But those who are willing to go through schooling and endure a tough couple of years will have plenty of opportunities waiting.
“Bottom line there is jobs, there’s lots of jobs,” said Sabin. “And if there’s not a job today there will be a job tomorrow.”