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Oct 5, 2018 | Uncategorized New

Sam Friedman
Sam Friedman
Freelance writer in Fairbanks

Demand for qualified truck drivers in the Lower 48 has been so strong in recent years that some of the big national trucking companies have come to Alaska to look for labor.

Lower 48 companies recruit Alaskans to meet demand

Demand for qualified truck drivers in the Lower 48 has been so strong in recent years that some of the big national trucking companies have come to Alaska to look for labor.

One company even offers Alaska drivers a deal that flips the usual Alaska out-of-state worker arrangement on its head: recently recruited truck drivers at Green Bay, Wisconsin-based Schneider National can live in Alaska and be flown to the Lower 48 to work three-week shifts.

By his count, sixty-seven graduates of the Northern Industrial Training (NIT) trade school in Palmer have taken rotational schedule jobs at Schneider in the last two-and-a-half years, says Joey Crum, president and CEO of NIT.

Schneider reports it currently has twenty-seven Alaska residents driving various routes in the Lower 48. It’s worth the expense to recruit Alaska drivers because of the quality of candidate the company gets, says Rob Reich, Schneider’s senior vice president for equipment, maintenance, and driver development.

“We have found the work ethic, attention to safety, and professionalism to be worthy of the investment,” he says.

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Crum is a former truck driver who recently finished a term as president of the Alaska Trucking Association. He’s been at NIT for fifteen years and says he’s never seen a labor market so hot in the Lower 48 that a company was willing to regularly fly employees to work from Alaska.

“The industry finds a way,” he says. “If they can’t find what they need locally, they’ll find it somewhere else.”

Nebraska-based Werner Enterprises and Tennessee-based TCW have also come to Alaska to recruit drivers recently, although these companies were looking for drivers willing to relocate to the Lower 48, Crum says.

While the job market for truck drivers may be red hot in the Lower 48, it’s also still strong in Alaska, Crum says. At 7.3 percent, Alaska’s unemployment rate is a few points higher than the national rate. But Crum says there are always jobs somewhere in the state available for people who have commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs). The trucking industry employs thousands of Alaskans and continues to bring in nonresident drivers for hard-to-fill jobs.

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