INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — On a recent afternoon, Tina Singh watched nearly a dozen students at a suburban Los Angeles truck-driving school backing up their practice big rigs into parking spaces. Many had never operated a manual transmission before.
“It’s an exciting time to be a truck driver right now because there’s so much demand for drivers,” said Singh, the school’s director. “Our yards are busy, and they’re very vibrant with a lot of activity.”
Business is booming at the California Truck Driving Academy amid a nationwide shortage of long-haul drivers that has led to promises of high pay and instant job offers. The Inglewood school has seen annual enrollment grow by almost 20% since last year, and has expanded to offering night classes.
“Everything in this country runs by truck at some point or another,” Singh said. “And so, you know, you need truck drivers to move goods.”
The U.S. is about 80,000 drivers short due to a convergence of factors, according to Nick Vyas, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Marshall Center for Global Supply Chain Management.
Consumer spending is 15% above where it was in February 2020, just before the pandemic paralyzed the economy. Production rose nearly 5% over the past year as U.S. factories worked to keep up with an increased demand for goods, according to the Federal Reserve. Imports have narrowed the gap.