AUSTIN (KXAN) — For Jerome Woods, all roads have led to a life on the road.
“Since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to be a truck driver,” he told KXAN.
Woods graduated Thursday with his commercial driver’s license from locally-based Community Truck Driving School. He also graduated amid a supply chain shortage that’s left store shelves empty and restaurant menu items unavailable across the country. That’s made Woods a hot commodity.
“It’s perfect timing for me,” he said. “That means I definitely have a place to be.”
Six months after KXAN’s last visit, the school said its 20-person classes are filling up faster than ever. Operations Manager Eldon Featherston said because of the supply chain issues, companies that once only hired experienced truckers are now taking his students straight out of school.
“Nobody’s applying for these jobs, and (the companies) don’t understand why,” Featherston said. “The money is out there to be made.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of July, roughly 33,000 trucking industry jobs remained unfilled from pre-pandemic levels. There was already a shortage before COVID-19.
The head of the Texas Trucking Association said the Lone Star State faces unique challenges due its sheer size and its amount of international commerce with Mexico.
“We’re set up geographically to handle a lot of freight to feed the rest of the country, not to mention North America,” said President and CEO John Esparza.
It will soon become more difficult to obtain a CDL in Texas. Right now, a potential driver only needs to pass the required test to get a license. As of next February, a delayed change in federal law will kick in, requiring classroom and hands-on training.