It isn't always easy to become a truck driver these days. Brian Fielkow of Houston's Jetco Delivery says for one, it costs a lot more to buy a truck. While a big rig five years ago costs about $80,000, you'll now pay around $120,000.
"That's taken the used market right up with it. So from capital, to government regulations, however you want to measure it, the idea of, 'Well, let's start a trucking company, sounds like a good idea,' those days are gone."
And as for finding qualified drivers, Fielkow says companies now have greater access to a trucker's safety record, and too many violations could make a company reluctant to hire, even if that driver is still qualified to be on the road.
"Think about the litigious world that we live in. Just think about it for a minute. So if we hire this guy, assuming he'll get better, and then he has an accident, what is the first thing a plaintiff's lawyer is going to pick up?"
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration makes a lot of information available to the public concerning individual carriers' records, but how should someone use that information if they're looking for a transportation company? Todd Stewart with Gulf Winds International says the data can have flaws, and it's often more about predicting future behavior than actual operations.
"There are still tremendous challenges in basing your carrier selection on only the data you find in the system."
Feilkow and Stewart says demand for truckers is increasing now that more shipments are coming in to support the drilling industry. They say to keep those goods moving out of Houston, shippers need to plan ahead, and not assume trucks are always going to be available.
For more about the conference, visit the International Trade and Transportation Conference Webpage.