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Bill Messenger, president of Campbell’s Express, a trucking and warehousing business in Pitman.

The shortage of truck drivers with the required Class A and Class B commercial driver’s licenses is causing headaches for local trucking companies, disrupting the supply chain, and ushering in price increases on a wide range of products that consumers use every day.

“I think this is going to affect the supply chain all the way down,” Bill Messenger, president of Campbell’s Express, told the New Jersey Business Coalition at its recent virtual town hall. “Everything you buy from clothes to food, cleaning supplies, medical supplies, electronics – it all comes from trucks.”

Messenger said his Pitman-based trucking and warehouse operation, which has 78 trucks and 145 employees, is finding it difficult to replace truck drivers that retire. This is an industry-wide problem, he said, and the dearth of applicants is forcing competitors to call one another for help moving shipments they can’t move themselves because of the driver shortage.

“I got guys calling me saying, ‘Hey if I drop six loads a day off to you, can you handle them?’ Actual competitors asking me to deliver their freight for them,” Messenger said. “We’re just seeing things we’ve never even seen before.”

The hiring crisis doesn’t stop with the truck drivers, either, Messenger said.

“We’re also seeing it with our dock men, our loaders and unloaders, and it’s not a matter of pay,” Messenger said. “Our top guys loading trucks are making over $25 an hour, and we’re just not finding people to apply for those jobs, especially now.”

Based on what’s he’s heard from potential applicants, expanded unemployment benefits could be part of the problem, Messenger said.

“You hear, ‘Well I’m going to get through the summer, then maybe I’ll apply,’ because you know they get the benefits through the summer,” Messenger said. “So, why come in and work when they’re going to make the kind of money they’re making staying at home?”

The trucking industry is also experiencing a shortage of qualified diesel mechanics, Messenger said.

“Diesel mechanics are super hard to find, about as tough as the Class A and Class B drivers. Somehow, I think we need to incentivize and get these people back looking, back working,” Messenger said.

More than 150 people attended the New Jersey Business Coalition’s May 11 virtual town hall meeting, including about 20 state and federal legislators or their staff.  Go here to watch Messenger’s entire presentation.