By Craig Day, The News On 6
SAPULPA, OK -- With the economy in crisis, many job seekers are turning to the open road.
More laidoff workers are applying for trucking jobs, an industry where hiring has traditionally been in high gear.
But now, many companies have a long waiting list for job seekers. That hasn't always been the case.
"Typically speaking, we have more freight to haul than we have drivers to haul it, and you are constantly trying to fill the empty seats that you have out on your yard at any given time," said Shannon Crowley, vice president of Sapulpa's John Christner Trucking.
Instead, with the rising number of applicants and falling freight demand, recruiters are turning away many people, including those without enough experience.
"Right now we've got a hiring freeze on our operators," Crowley said.
While there is a dramatic increase in the number of people looking to become drivers, in many cases, there aren't enough jobs in the trucking industry for those job seekers.
"We haven't seen this in about the last 30 years," said Matt Talley with Tulsa's Sooner Freight Lines, a small company with 11 trucks.
Talley says the industry has seen about a 50 percent drop in business. Because of the economy, people aren't shipping as much as they used to, he said.
The American Trucking Association says in the second half of 2008, the number of truck loads fell by 23 percent, the largest decrease since the association began collecting data.
"Trucking companies right now are just dropping like flies," Talley said. "They're just going out of business left and right."
It's hoped the economy turns around and the number of loads picks up. If it does, there will be more jobs for the rising number of potential drivers.
Industry experts say the days of trucking companies aggressively courting drivers with bonuses and extra money per mile are over, at least for now, because there are so many people who want to drive.