Worker shortage nothing new for KELOLAND trucking companies

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — A shortage of truck drivers is adding to the supply chain backlog that’s keeping products of all types from reaching store shelves ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season. And that shortage is being felt on roads in KELOLAND, as well. But the lack of drivers is nothing new for companies like K & J Trucking.

The trucking industry has had a shortage of drivers for more than a decade. Part of that has to do with the longstanding stigma of trucking being a low-status profession. A reputation that those within the industry say is undeserved. But the driver shortage has become more pronounced with the supply-chain issues facing the country right now. So companies like K & J Trucking are offering more perks to get more drivers on the road.

Doug Newman spent 21-years in the button-down world of banking.

“I’ve worked at Citibank for a little over 7-years, I worked for PREMIER Bank Card and my last job was with Wells Fargo,” Newman said.

But Newman decided to shift gears and switch from banking to trucking.

“I just made the decision that I was going to go over-the-road trucking six years ago. And six years later, I’m now up to four trucks and not going to go back,” Newman said.

Newman hopes other drivers will follow his lead and make the career move.

“Out on the road, that’s all you see is trucks. But, we have trucks here that are sitting empty because we can’t find a driver,” Newman said.

“Well, I’m just going to be honest with you. We pray. We weekly pray for drivers,” K & J Trucking President Shelley Koch said.

K & J Trucking has been dealing with a driver shortage for years. Pay increases help bring in more workers, but the company president says the industry still isn’t paying truckers what they’re worth.

“A normal driver here can make around $75-thousand dollars a year. I think until we can get to around $100-thousand a year, we’re not going to see much, so we have a ways to go,” Koch said.

It turns out, truckers, themselves, are the best recruiting tool for K & J, whenever they refer potential hires to the company.

“And so we reward our current drivers for referrals and that’s what we do,” Koch said.

The company recently raised its referral bonus from $500 to $2,000. But for truckers like Newman, the real pay-off is spending their workday on the open road.

“I’m a professional tourist. I get to see the whole country,” Newman said.

K & J also offers more family-friendly routes. Drivers can choose to be long-haulers that take them cross country for two weeks at a time, or they can opt for shorter routes that can include just one day on the road before it’s back home again.

If you’re thinking of getting behind the wheel, you can check out the job openings at K & J Trucking.

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