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Where the jobs are: Trucking companies are hiking wages as they struggle to attract younger drivers

Trucks hauled more than 70 percent of freight tonnage in the U.S. last year, generating $676 billion in revenues, according to the American Trucking Associations. But the industry is grappling with a growing problem — a shortage of qualified drivers, as its current workforce ages and the labor market continues to tighten.

Some 500,000 nonlocal, for-hire truckers are delivering freight in the U.S., and the industry needs 51,000 more, experts say.

“We have more freight than we know what to do with, but in order to haul that freight, you’ve got to have more drivers — trucks don’t drive themselves,” said Bob Costello, the association’s chief economist. “We have a couple of demographics problems in the industry — we have a high average age of the current truck drivers. We need to do a better job to get females in as truck drivers. The supply side is tight as well.”

The crunch is being felt in industries from construction to retail as the labor shortage’s ripple effect grows.

C.R. England, a Salt Lake City-based trucking company, works with big companies like Nestle and Walmart and employs some 6,500 drivers, but Chairman Dan England said it could use 500 more.

“It’s frustrating for us not to be able to meet the goals we have set in terms of growth. … We do have to disappoint customers on a regular basis. Every day we have many loads that are called in, and we just can’t answer the calls and put a truck there,” said England, whose company has been in his family for four generations.

“We are interested in growing, the business is there. We just need the manpower and womanpower to get it done.”

Costello says the average driver is 50 years old, and only 6 percent are women, making new drivers like Johnshell Jenkins a rarity. She’s a 21-year-old Alabama native who just completed training with C.R. England and is ready to hit the road.

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