Seven students at Eastern Idaho Technical College were huddled around a semitrailer one recent morning, learning how to put snow chains on the tires.
The brisk Idaho Falls weather was mild compared with what the students will face when they hit the road as professional truck drivers. Its just one of the many rigors of a job spent on the road. But its a job that never goes away.
The economy never quits eating, says EITC truck driving instructor Hank Brown.
And the truck driving job market is expected to grow. A recent Idaho Department of Labor study listed it as a hot job in eastern Idaho. The department projects that truck driving jobs will increase by about 27 percent by 2020.
A job is considered hot if it satisfied three major criteria: abundance in the economy, fast growth and high pay, department spokesman Will Jenson says.
One of the major variables is population growth, Jenson says. Eastern Idaho has exceptional population growth, (and we) anticipate it will continue to grow.
Other jobs listed as hot in the area include engineers, electricians and mechanics. We do this study to help people prepare for jobs coming out in 10 years or coming down the road, Jenson says.
Doug Andrus Distributing is hiring all the time, and Craig Ritchie, human resources manager, says the company only expects to hire more.
Its kind of an aging industry, Ritchie says. There are more older drivers than younger, and those older drivers are leaving.
The company employs about 300 drivers and hires about 100 every year, Ritchie says. A starting driver can expect to make $33,000 to $38,000 a year, he says.
Browns class, made up of mostly middle-aged students, practices driving on the company property. A lot of people take Browns course worth 10 college credits because they are unemployed and know jobs in the transportation sector are available, Brown says.
Theres always a transfer of drivers every four to five years, because when drivers have other options to do other things they go back to it, he says.
The colleges truck driving school spans six weeks. Two weeks are devoted to classroom instruction. The rest are in-truck learning. The college runs 11 classes with three to four students per class every year, he says. The waiting list for the class is about two months.
Students must pass both written and driving exams.
This is hard work and long hours ... most times you wont be able to be home at night, Brown says. But this will net an immediate, good job.