hearings and articulated concerns about
the need to invest in the infrastructure
through maintenance, enforcement, and
data gathering. The efforts would help to
provide a safe and reliable highway connection capable of supporting oil and gas
industry exploration and production.
The industry representatives pointed
out the benefits of compiling survey
data, crash statistics, and violations.
Examples of appropriate enforcement
presence offered by ATA presenters are
keeping the Fox weigh station open 24
hours, having a marked vehicle on the
road, and conducting inspections.
“Enforcement becomes a competitive
issue,” explains Thompson. Although
large and medium-sized carriers that
own terminals and trucks can’t afford to
risk a lack of maintenance and not following rules, some small companies and
individuals could let insurance lapse.
“Enforcement allows the industry to
compete on service and price, not on
cutting corners,” says Thompson. “It’s
a matter of workplace safety. The roads
are where our employees go to work.”
ATA also requested improvements in
the training delivery systems funded by
the state, saying that vocational schools
such as AVTEC in Seward, Yuut Elitn-
aurviat in Bethel, and the Community
& Technical College in the University of
Alaska Anchorage need a better focus
to effectively address truck driving and
equipment maintenance training.
One suggestion is that funding for appropriate training could be better leveraged by supporting delivery by the private
sector. Scherieble of Kenworth Alaska says
his company has donated engines and
parts to advance the training courses, but
he hasn’t seen successful development of
the skills needed. “In nineteen years, I’ve
seen two technicians from AVTEC and
one from UAA,” says Scherieble. His company is currently advertising in the Lower
48 to attract qualified diesel mechanics.
Current vacancies include four positions
in Fairbanks and two in Anchorage.
“We suggested to the Legislature that
they reevaluate existing training sources and recognize the good ones and feed
them,” says Thompson.
The third legislative priority is advanc-
ing projects on the National Highway Sys-
tem that are in final design and ready to
advance. “We’re asking that as federal dol-
lars dwindle, the National Highway System
trust fund money be used on the highway
itself, not for scenic overlooks and the like,”
explains Thompson. ATA identified its top
ten projects, chosen for importance to the
trucking industry and advancement of the
Alaska LNG Project.
There’s no disputing within the trucking industry what concern most seriously threatens future prospects. That’s
a driver shortage.
“It’s been a problem in the Lower 48 for
fifteen to twenty years,” says Doyle of Weav-
er Bros. “Now we’re experiencing a lower
supply of drivers compared to demand.”
The American Trucking Associations
reports that the trucking industry is
short about 35,000 truck drivers, and the
shortfall could grow to around 240,000
drivers by 2020 if not addressed. The
problem has increased cyclically when
construction and factory jobs have be-
come more abundant and pulled drivers
from life on the road.
Aggravated by regulatory and demographic changes, however, the driver
shortage has become a more serious threat
to viability of the trucking industry. Federal regulations enacted in 2013 limit the
hours truckers can drive and require more
breaks. A long-distance haul now keeps
drivers away from home longer with no
additional income for the time required.
At the same time that recruiting has
become more challenging the work-
force is expected to shrink because of
the heavy concentration of older driv-
ers. “There’s a graying of the workforce,”
says ATA’s Thompson. “A large percent-
age of drivers are within five years of re-
tirement age, and hundreds of years of
experience will soon be retiring.”
Construction and other trades have
voiced concern about the ability to at-
tract today’s youth to careers in those
industries. But trucking is further hand-
icapped because the holder of a com-
mercial driver license (CDL) must be
at least twenty-one years of age to haul
interstate commerce. An intrastate CDL
at age nineteen only qualifies a driver to
haul limited cargoes such as gravel, dirt,
and some local freight. The trucking in-
dustry doesn’t hire drivers younger than
twenty-one because of such restrictions.
Additionally insurance companies
generally won’t insure drivers until
age twenty-three. Trucking companies
must be self-insured to employ younger
drivers; therefore, ages twenty-three to
twenty-five are the more realistic ages
of entry-level drivers.
“Every other industry has the oppor-
tunity to capture young persons between
eighteen and twenty-one and put them
on a career path,” says Joey Crum, presi-
dent and CEO of Northern Industrial
Training LLC, which offers courses cer-
tified by the Professional Truck Driver
Institute. Because of federal regulations,
the trucking industry can’t draw from
that pool. “The industry is truly recruit-
ing from a secondary pool,” he adds.
It’s an unfortunate fact that many in-
dividuals during those years acquire re-
cords for drug or violent act offenses or
for driving infractions that preclude eligi-
bility for a CDL. “If individuals had start-
ed on CDL education, at least we could
give them information about the conse-
quences of those actions,” says Crum. He
explains that the industry has proposed
creation of a graduated license that would
permit younger drivers with CDLs to op-
erate smaller equipment such as vans.
To attract drivers, Alaska trucking
companies have increased salaries and
improved benefits. They are recruit-
ing from within and training employ-
ees who work on loading docks and in
warehouses to prepare them for their
CDLs and provide the experience of
working with other drivers after receiv-
ing the Commercial Learners Permit.
Looking far down the pike, Carlile
has been advocating for transportation
industry careers by offering facility
tours to elementary school students and
sending truck drivers to address middle
and high school students. According to
Howard, the program has been a grassroots effort, with employees volunteering time to participate.
Nance Larsen, director of Communications and Marketing for Carlile,
explains that a pilot program at Begich
Middle School in February involved
students filling out bills of lading and
wrapping pallets. “The students are
finding out how important transportation is to Alaska,” she says. “We’re excited to be able to tell that story.” R
Judy Griffin, a former editor of
Alaska Business Monthly, is a
freelance writer in Anchorage.