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Amid Labor Shortage, Trucker Pay Near Teacher Pay in South Dakota

But the shipping-container shortage won’t matter to South Dakota much if we can’t get our goods out to ports in the first place. KSFY reports we’ve been short on truck drivers since before the pandemic:

In 2018, the trucking industry was short just over 60,000 drivers.

The shortage seems to be getting worse due to the pandemic as many driving schools had to close their doors because of COVID-19.

President of K&J Trucking, Shelly Schipper, says the main problem in trucking is driver shortages. “Everybody is yelling for drivers these days and drivers are not moving, it is the worst I’ve seen it in the last several years” [Ernest Cottier, “Truck Driver Shortage Continues to Grow During Pandemic,” KSFY-TV, 2021.04.16].

You’d think it would be easier to find truckers than teachers, since Schuipper says trucking requires less education and pays a lot better:

“I think the shortage is more of a reflection of the demand today and less of the drivers coming in to the market, it’s still a great industry, drivers are going to make over $60,000 or $80,000 a year with a really short amount of schooling,” says Schipper [Cottier, 2021.04.16].

ZipRecruiter actually reports the average salary for truck drivers nationwide is $50,909, 4% better than South Dakota’s FY2020 average teacher pay of $49,008; the average trucker pay cracks $60K only in a couple cities in California, Alaska, and up in New Town, North Dakota, in the Bakken oil fields. The average truck driver pay in Aberdeen is $48,003, 4% below the local teacher pay average of $50,003.


  1. Joe 2021-04-19

    Re. the headline: There isn’t a “labor shortage”. There’s a disconnect between the wage offered, and the number of people willing to take work at the offered wage. This disconnect is not on “labor” to solve, despite all the propaganda and bad faith arguments to the contrary.

  2. sdslim 2021-04-19

    Having had a CDL since their inception and driving trucks/large equipment my whole life, I can tell you it is not an easy life and especially not for a young person with a family.

  3. Richard Schriever 2021-04-19

    I agree with slim AND with Joe. As a CDL holder who works in a unionized seasonal environment, I work long (up to 14 hour) days – 6 days a week, for 5 1/2 – 6 months of the year and make about that average annual trucker pay in half the time. I also get to spend my evenings in a company paid hotel room every night. I get a shower and a hot meal every night. I operate a company owned, licensed, insured, maintained and fueled truck. Unlike the over-the-road “owner/operators” who have to pay their own way for xx cents/mile as is the norm within the “great paying trucking industry”, I get great company paid benefits. WHY would I go to work where the day-to-day financial risk is on me – for more hours and less pay??? WHY would anyone?

  4. grudznick 2021-04-19

    Truckers are hard working fellows who go 12 months a year in harsh conditions and often have to spend time away from their families. Yes, they get to eat in a lot of great cafes but it’s still tough. They deserve the wages.

  5. SouthDacola 2021-04-19

    Yeah and truckers work 12 months a year unlike teachers

  6. Porter Lansing 2021-04-19

    What’s the easiest job on the farm?
    Driving grain to the elevator.
    What’s the easiest working job in any company?
    Delivering the product.
    I drove Teamster’s union lumber products via tractor/trailer for nine years.
    It’s multiple times easier than farming or factory work.
    You stay clean and listen to right wing talk radio not to mention the stay awake aids you may consume.

  7. mike from iowa 2021-04-19

    What are the chances more teachers can drive trucks than truckers can teach?

  8. mike from iowa 2021-04-19

    Delivering grain to the elevator might appear to be easy, but, if all you can manage is one load in a 12 hour or longer day, it is extremely stressful. That is with a tractor and wagons and a top speed of 14 mph empty.

  9. Mark Anderson 2021-04-19

    I find it amazing that people feel that thats such a great wage. I had surgery on my heart a couple of years ago and what was I banned from doing for a few months, driving. Its not so easy as you believe folks. Go ahead and try it, I’m sure everything would work out fine.

  10. Porter Lansing 2021-04-19

    MFI … As a hired hand at age 14. The bosses wife insisted that I drive the grain to town because the boss would, as you say, take 12 hours per load. Plus, spending as much money as he could drink in beer and lose at gin.
    I didn’t go in the Waverly bar, although I was always served. I sat in the truck and waited my turn to dump and counted my blessings that I didn’t have to throw bales, for three hours, those mornings.

  11. mike from iowa 2021-04-19

    Porter, I was reminiscing about the long lines to dump grain that seemed to stretch for miles and miles when every farmer under the sun was combining. If you left your vehicle when the line moved, you lost your place in the line.

    Plus, I got my butt chewed royally because of the long lines and the landlord had to sit and wait hours for wagons to fill. All years behind me now, thank somebody.

  12. Porter Lansing 2021-04-19

    MFI … Those lines were super long, huh?
    I’m new here, lately but I remember the rule to stay on topic.
    With that I’ll shut up before I get scolded.
    Nice talkin’ to ‘ya, fer sure. :0)

  13. T 2021-04-19

    I would say yes and no to this report. Independents make more than this, but have more expenses. Dependents make more than this by actually hauling something…… Meaning is this 48,000 figure haul during the day and home by 5 w weekends off?
    Not trusting a zip recruiter survey, it’s like the usda surveys for farmers, a lot of lying goes on.
    Semi drivers can write a lot of checks especially during covid with the relaxed requirements and blind eyes because things have to get transported. I still flow the laws but also getting more hauls at better prices.

  14. T 2021-04-19

    Porter delivering products are the worst. You get there early, you wait for scheduled time even if the bay is empty. Drives me crazy. Then because of laziness and or safety precautions, unloading is an eternity.
    Grain elevators have changed, usually you in your out. Bigger elevators have more compactly and power to handle semi dump, this lines r shorter.

  15. mike from iowa 2021-04-19

    Last of the OT tonight. Walter Mondale has left the building. Proved to be one of the last decent human beings in American politics and was head and shoulders classier than Ronnie Raygun.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-04-20

    Well, T, whom can we trust on truck driver pay? The trucking companies and driving schools stand to make a buck by recruiting new drivers, so their numbers are probably inflated.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median pay in May 2020 for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $47,130, while the mean annual wage was $48,710. The mean trucker pay in SD was $46,230, less than in every adjoining stated except Iowa.

    BLS says median pay for high school teachers in May 2020 was $62,870, while the median for all preK-12 teachers was $59,410. The mean annual wage for secondary school teachers was $67,340. BLS says the average in South Dakota was $45,810. Every adjoining state offers more than $50K; MN, NE, and WY beat $60K.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-04-20

    T, having my work delayed by those unloading factors, factors beyond my control, would drive me nuts.

  18. T 2021-04-20

    I welcome to my world CH where everyone works all the time and doesn’t make enough haha
    It the world we live in of complaining all the time. Farmers have no money trucking makes no money…and so forth
    There is work and there is money. My short hauls keep me around home and NE and I would say rest made around 30-40. Working but could have doubled that if I didn’t have my other job(farming) Broker companies are screaming for people and claiming they are not making money, but how can one not? There are so many trucking jobs out there. I do have to give Aberdeen credit, you pull up you unload. Sioux Falls, Fargo and rapid are okay, could be better but Platte you are the worst. Not unloading until your schedule says is bull. Haul grains and leap frog commodities for big companies. Not being able to unload until schedule sometimes have trucks dropping cargo. Then co pays (me😃) to pickup up for example kennebec to Aberdeen or Fargo. I deliver on scheduled day and time and WAIT usually because of “regulations” they claim……then…. I drop trailer hopfully in same place
    and pic up another. Leap frog.
    Just saying you can use all the stats u want for a guideline I’ve seen haul tickets $$$$ and during covid it’s been heaven. (Restrictions lifted or ignored)

    And yes CH it drives you crazy.
    It is g

  19. T 2021-04-20

    Well I’m not sure about my ending CH ignore that
    The “regs” when unloading are the stores regs that have you waiting to be clear.
    Walmart’s very good usually but getting in and out of Sidney ne is a pain.

  20. T 2021-04-20

    Maybe the quitting police force will be getting their cdls, wow look at Portland’s force…or less force I should say

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