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Out-Of-Work Bay Area Professionals Turn To Truck Driving

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Big-rigs at the Port of Oakland. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Big-rigs at the Port of Oakland. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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HAYWARD (CBS 5) — In the Bay Area and across the nation, new jobs are scarce for those over 50 and out of work. Many of them have been forced to rethink their career path, which is leading an increasing number to become truck drivers.

“I have my two kids at Stanford. I have to get a job, I have to retrain myself,” said Rollie Cardema, one of the Bay Area’s newest truck drivers. Cardema spent years working as an engineer in Silicon Valley. Now he is licensed to drive an 18-wheeler.

He’s not alone. Across the Bay Area, truck driving schools are enjoying a traffic jam, with classes doubling in size over the past year. “I’ve had a wave of all sorts of different kinds of people,” said Paul Janda, who runs A-1 Truck Driving School in Hayward.

Steve Kramm, who spent 30 years in the world of sales, is another new driver. “I went through all that, wearing a tie most of the time, and decided to do a career change,” said Kramm, who is now driving rigs between Hayward and Mountain View.

A job behind the wheel delivers plenty of upsides. One, you get trained fast. With four weeks of training and the blessing of the Department of Motor Vehicles you can drive a rig legally in California.

It’s also relatively cheap. Many students leave a four-year college with $50,000 in debt. Trucking school will cost you about $2,500. Most importantly drivers are almost guaranteed a job. The A-1 Truck Driving School said they have a 70 percent job placement rate.

Businesses and trucking companies are always looking for drivers, and as Rollie Cardema observed, “This is a job they can’t export.” Open-road drivers can earn up to six figures, and drivers who work independently can set their own hours.

Something encouraging everyone can take away from the current rush to truck-driving schools, a boom in the trucking industry is often an indication that the overall economy is picking up speed as well.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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