Manufacturing lumber involves a lot more than just milling wood. It involves sourcing logs, transporting the logs, manufacturing products, finding suitable markets, and transporting the products to the markets. All of these tasks require people to do the work.
A labor shortage has become a major concern for many industries in the U.S. and truck driver positions are one of the most common jobs to go unfilled. According to the American Trucking Association the United States is projected to be short 175,000 truck drivers by 2026. Log truck driving companies are already feeling the effects of this shortage in Idaho and Montana.
Driving a log truck takes experience and special skills beyond those common to CDL licensed drivers. There are few formal training options anywhere in the country, and none located nearby. Schools have typically been underused because they require a significant financial investment and a log truck certification is not generally required to work in the industry. It’s likely, that given this lack of training availability, there are people who are interested in learning about driving a log truck but don’t feel confident in making a commitment (purchase of equipment) without some understanding of what the job entails.
In 2018 over 143,000 log trucks delivered logs to Idaho Forest Group’s (IFG) mills. Timely delivery to mill after the harvest of these logs is crucial to our operations. Logs that sit at forest sites too long lose value, are attractants for pests, hold up payments to landowners, and are potential fire hazards. As fire threat increases in the region, the recognition of this threat also grows, bringing with it more landowners wanting to manage their forests to reduce the risk of fire. This increased activity will get more wood moving. The increasing demand to haul logs paired with a shortage of qualified drivers is of significant concern to our industry.
Working with other stakeholders, including log hauling contractors and educational institutions, IFG has been in the search of a solution to this predicament, as the impact to IFG operations is looming. Holding true to the innovative nature of IFG, we are starting a program internally to augment the log hauling workforce in the region.
IFG is now looking to hire two experienced log truck drivers with excellent communication skills to haul for us and simultaneously train future log truck drivers, hoping to recruit individuals who already hold a CDL. IFG will cover the operational costs for haulers, allowing paid real-world experience and safety education for the trainees. Once trainees have completed the training period, they will be able to find work with local contractors, with little additional investment required on the contractor’s part.
IFG intends for this undertaking to bring in trainee log truck drivers to help satisfy the regional needs by offering a low-risk opportunity to interested drivers. We hope that this resource will be supported by our partners and the forest products industry in the Inland Northwest.