The director of the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) Transportation Institute, Dave Pfiffner, says the industry got a lot of attention early on in the pandemic when store shelves emptied out of toilet paper. “There were shortages of a lot of different things, meats if you look at foodstuffs and consumable supplies — those seemed to be the areas where there were issues,” Pfiffner says.
He says there was a shortage of drivers before the pandemic, and things are going to get worse. “If you look at the average age of a truck driver out there now — it’s in the mid-50s — so it’s a very grey fleet. A lot of folks looking to retire over the next five to ten years,” according to Pfiffner. “And there’s not as many people coming in on the other end to make up for those loses.”
Pfiffner says those looking to get into the industry can pretty much determine what they want to do. And trucking isn’t all about driving a big rig across the country. “There are jobs available in really every segment of the industry right now,” he says. “Some people think of truck just as you’re over the road, you’re away from home all the time. That’s not actually the case, there’s a huge number of jobs out there that are considered local jobs. Everything from delivery to cement mixers to garbage pick up.”
He says you can be trained and ready to go in a couple of months. “In normal times it’s a six-week program, 240 contact hours, so pretty much fulltime,” Pfiffner says. “Since the pandemic has hit, we’ve moved the classroom portion of our training, which used to be conducted on-site, to kind of an instructor-led online format. So, in other words, the class meets with the instructor on a daily basis in something similar to a zoom meeting.”
Pfiffner says the average starting salary for DMACC Transportation Institute graduates is 40 to $50,000, with the ability to make $60,000 annually within two years.