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2012 November 26 - 12:00 am

TRACKING TRENDS : Idaho College Works To Meet Rising Demand for Truckers

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Seven Eastern Idaho Technical College students were huddled around a semitrailer, learning how to put snow chains on the tires.

The brisk weather was mild compared to what the students will face when they hit the road as professional truck drivers.

It’s just one of the many rigors of a job spent on the road. But it’s a job that never goes away.

“The economy never quits eating,” EITC truck-driving instructor Hank Brown said. “There will always be jobs in transportation.”

And the truck-driving job market is expected to grow. A recent Idaho Department of Labor study listed it as a “hot” job in eastern Idaho.

The department projects that truck driving jobs will increase by about 27 percent by 2020.

A job is considered “hot” if it satisfied three major criteria: abundance in the economy, fast growth and high pay, Department spokesman Will Jenson said.

“One of the major variables is population growth,” Jenson said. “Eastern Idaho has exceptional population growth (and we) anticipate it will continue to grow.”

Other jobs listed as “hot” in eastern Idaho include engineers, electricians and mechanics.

“We do this study to help people prepare for jobs coming out in 10 years or coming down the road,” Jenson said.

Doug Andrus Distributing is hiring all the time and Craig Ritchie, human resources manager, said the company only expects to hire more.

“It’s kind of an aging industry,” Ritchie said. “There are more older drivers than younger and those older drivers are leaving.”

The company employs about 300 drivers and hires about 100 every year, Ritchie said.

A starting driver can expect to make $33,000 to $38,000 a year, he said.

Brown’s class, made up of mostly middle-aged students, practices driving on the company property.

A lot of people take Brown’s course, worth 10 college credits, because they are unemployed and know jobs in the transportation sector are available, Brown said.

“There’s always a transfer of drivers every four to five years because when drivers have other options to do other things they go back to it,” he said.

The college’s truck driving school spans six weeks. Two weeks are devoted to classroom instruction and the rest are in-truck learning, Brown said.

The college runs 11 classes with three to four students per class every year, he said. The waiting list for the class is about two months.

Students have to pass both written and driving exams to become a professional driver, Brown said.

“This is hard work and long hours ... most times you won’t be able to be home at night,” Brown said. “But this will net an immediate, good job.”

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