TAMPA, Fla. — We're all learning the hard way this year just how important truck drivers are to the American supply chain.

"Whether things move by plane, train or by ship," sad Brad Ball, President of Roadmaster Drivers School. "At the end of the day it all has to move by truck or else it's not going to lead where it lands."

What You Need To Know

  • Truck driver shortage hit hard by the pandemic

Ball runs one of the busiest truck driving schools in the country right now. He says in 2019, the trucking industry was already short 60,000 drivers. The pandemic forced many driving schools to cancel classes, while at the same time experienced drivers retired or quit, causing that number to go up.

"2020 certainly made that worse," Ball said. "And we're guessing we're 100,000 short now and potentially 250,000 soon."

That's why Ball says he'll be busy over the next 10 years training a new generation of truck drivers like Thomas Boggs who left a job managing 7-Elevens to hit the road.

"You're kind of in your own world," Boggs said. "You're behind the wheel. You're driving. Ain't got nobody to worry about but you in the world."

"Now, an entry-level driver coming out of roadmaster can make $50,000 in the first year. Depending on where you live that could become $60-$70,000 real quick," Ball explained.

It's fast becoming a career that's attracting a diverse group of students driving towards changing the face of the trucking industry. As for Thomas, it's made him a totally different kind of driver.

"It teaches you the safety of driving," Boggs said. "It teaches you the smart way to do things and they make sure that you're going to be a safe driver before you leave the school."