GILROY (KPIX 5) — A union in the South Bay says that a lack of commercial drivers is threatening to put the brakes on the local post-pandemic economic recovery.

All along the highways and byways of the Bay Area and the nation, truckers are helping to move the economy into high gear. There’s just one problem.

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“There is a massive shortage of commercial drivers. We’re talking about our long-haul drivers, some of our freight drivers locally, and package handling,” said Teamsters Union Local 853 rep Ray Torres.

Torres said companies are trying to re-staff after pandemic layoffs
last year, but it’s been hard. Some drivers could still be sitting on the sidelines collecting stimulus money; others have left the industry.

But the effects of the shortage could soon hit everyone.

“With a shortage of drivers delivering packages, your packages may be sitting on the docks longer than you would want,” Torres said.

That’s why the union local is doing something it’s never done before.

“The teamsters are hosting a job fair,” he said.

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This Saturday, July, 10th, the union hall on 4th Street in San Jose will be hosting dozens of companies offering hundreds of well-paying jobs including truck drivers, school bus drivers, warehouse workers and machine

Starting pay for most of the jobs is in the $25-$30 an hour range, plus health care, pension and/or 401K benefits.

But veteran long-haul driver Al Hemerson — who has logged 6 million miles during his career — says the trucking industry has a bigger problem that preceded the pandemic.

“Our biggest problem is driver turnover. Trying to keep drivers in the industry,” Hemerson said.

Hemerson and his wife put in hundreds of thousands of miles a year between the Bay Area and Iowa. But many drivers are aging out of the industry and retiring. They don’t see many young people eager to join the industry.

“Most of the younger crowd don’t really care to get into it. They’re more used to Uber drivers. So they’re not into driving. They’d rather play on their phones when they’re in the vehicle,” said Kim Hemerson.

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If the industry can get younger drivers interested, you could see teenagers behind the wheel. Most trucking companies will only hire drivers who are over 21 years of age and have some driving experience, but the nationwide shortage has led to an industry push to lower that age to 18.