OILDALE, Calif. — It’s an industry that’s critical in delivering us the goods we buy and the foods we eat. But as the trucking industry continues to face staffing issues thanks to the pandemic, we could see a rise in prices for products, down the road.
Operating these trucks and trailers also includes long hours, tough schedules, and sleeping on the side of the road. This year truck drivers dealt with even more roadblocks due to the pandemic.
"It's kind of heartbreaking because in terms of us moving and delivering and doing everything we can on our end, it was kind of like hey how about the truck drivers?" said Jose Melgoza, a driver.
Although on the front lines day in and day out, Melgoza says truck drivers often feel forgotten during the pandemic.
"Between the rail industry and the trucking industry they keep the country moving, there's nothing you can't do without them,” said Jedidiah.
And moving is exactly what Jedidiah and his colleagues did this past year.
"We have freight to move, the customers pressing us, they need their items delivered,” said Avie Nagra, CEO of Roadies Inc. in Oildale.
Even before the pandemic, the trucking industry dealt with staffing issues. Nagra, says that the problem has grown since, causing remaining drivers to take on more hours.
“We have to ask the driver 'hey this week instead of 3 days off can you take 1 or 2 days off?'”
Nagra says several things have to lead to those staffing issues currently, including government aid.
“Everybody is getting a good stimulus check. Nobody wants to come out and work.”
For those who do want to work, Nagra says some are hesitant to return due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19, while he says others are facing setbacks while trying to get their licenses.
Nagra also adds these shortages don't just impact the industry, it's a domino effect that eventually gets to customers.
"When there's a lot of stuff to be moved and very few people to do it everybody paying a good amount of price, and that price is actually getting passed onto the buyers, and the buyers if they are selling a good for $4 a lb, now they'd increase it to $6."
Despite all these challenges, Calvin Reed, a driver of 37 years, stays positive hoping the industry will get the help it needs, while also taking time to reflect on why he started driving in the first place.
“You get to experience and see things, different parts of the world, and get to meet different people.”
Nagra also says getting the word out that these jobs are available despite the pandemic can help fix some of these staffing issues.
“If you wanted to acquire a license it requires training, and also a road test, and what I heard from the drivers or from the truck schools is that they are behind by 65 to 70 days.”
And other areas of delays this past year came from warehouses., where drivers would have to wait to load their trucks due to short staffing on the other end.