NEW ORLEANS — There is a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers in the U.S. That's according to the American Trucking Associations.
This is a record high, they say. Up 30 percent from before the pandemic.
And it's causing some unexpected people locally to shift careers.
Michelle Gibson Lee, 30, of Laplace, never thought she would be in control of an 18-wheeler.
In fact, the first time, there were numerous tears and fears, but now parking a big rig just feels natural.
“I am looking to use this as a footstool to start my own business, so I guess I'll get in it to fund my business,” Lee said, as her fellow male classmates cheered her test-driving performance.
Jonathan Brooks, 43, wanted something more steady with the goal to quickly become his own boss.
“I got tired of the inconsistency of the oil field, too much of it, too often, never home,” said Brooks.
Patrick Latshaw, 25, heard about the truck driver shortage on the news.
“COVID kind of had me, gave me an opportunity for a career change. I used to work in the plants, and I wasn't really liking the stability in that,” said Latshaw.
Applications to Coastal Truck Driving School are way up. This year could reach a 50 percent increase over last, which was its highest year ever.
“It tends to be, you know, refinery and plant workers, offshore people, and they're tired of getting laid off all the time, and they're looking for something stable to put food on the table,” explained Hauser Reboul, Vice-President of Coastal Truck Driving School.
But, he says, more than before, there are women, teens, and people from different backgrounds applying.
“We've had some high-up kind of oil execs actually call us and make a career change. We've had lawyers, a couple of doctors, here and there,” Reboul added.
Classes last four weeks. There are 1,500 students a year graduating from several schools across Louisiana.
They told us one notable graduate was homeless and had lost everything, but now is making $150,000 a year.
Not only have they seen drivers get raises five times in the last six months, but for the first time, the school is struggling to hire enough qualified instructors to keep up with the demand.
Instructors need four years of driving experience.
The school said that you can earn a commercial driver's license beginning at the age of 18, but to drive the 18-wheeler across state lines, you have to be 21-years-old.