This High-Paying Job Has 235,600 Unfilled Positions Across The US

05.12.14 | Rich Smith, The Motley Fool

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You wouldn't think that the old saw, "Good help is hard to find," had anything left to it, what with last week's unemployment report out of the U.S. Department of Labor showing unemployment in America is still 6.3%. The fact that hourly wages in America grew a measly 1.9% over the past 12 months tends to suggest there's little slack in the jobs market, too. (After all, if it was hard to find good help, wouldn't it stand to reason that employers would be paying through the nose to attract workers?)

In one industry, they may have to: trucking.

Help wanted
America as a whole may be slogging through 6.3% unemployment these days, but according to industry analyst FTR Transportation Intelligence, there's currently a 4.3% "driver shortage" in the trucking industry today -- a negative unemployment rate.

Bloomberg Intelligence reports that there are currently 235,600 unfilled trucking jobs across the country, which is 43.4% more job openings than at this time, last year. FTR predicts that this number will increase by a further 61.4% before finally peaking at the end of 2016, blaming new federal regulations that went into effect last summer that restrict the amount of time that driver's can sit behind the wheel. The new rules require that drivers take 34 hours off between work weeks, including two full nights of rest, and cannot work more than 70 hours in any given week.

What it means for truckers
At trucking companies from YRC Worldwide (NASDAQ: YRCW  ) to Swift Transportation (NYSE: SWFT  ) to Werner Enterprises (NASDAQ: WERN  ) , this works out to a perverse requirement that they do "less with more." Moving goods from Point A to Point B now requires that trucking companies hire more drivers -- but work them less.

From the truckers' perspective, this may not sound like good news. The new 70-hour workweek would appear to offer less room for overtime, and smaller paychecks. But around this particular cloud of diesel smoke, there is a silver lining. Bloomberg reports that, because the new regulations have heightened demand for new drivers, "carriers may have to increase wages."

With demand for their services up -- and projected to keep going up -- and the likelihood that they'll be paid more for less work to boot, this all sounds like it's a great time to be a trucker.

What it means to investors
The news for the trucking companies, on the other hand, is not so good. Fact is, the new federal regulations could hardly have come at a worse time for the trucking industry, which last week reported multiple earnings misses, with some companies struggling to earn any profits at all.

One big problem facing the industry these days is aging fleets of tractors and trailers. Last year, Werner Enterprises COO Derek Leathers pointed out to investors that the average tractor in American trucking fleets is now at least 6.6 years old. That's up from an average age of just 5.5 years a decade ago. Warned Leathers: "To claw back from 6.6 years to get to 5.5 years, the industry...

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