If you get a little giddy at the thought of rolling across America in A locomotive or an 18-wheeler, flying a widebody into the wild blue, or crossing the oceans in a cargo vessel, then transportation might be the ticket for you.
The Driver's Seat
"There are a lot of opportunities in our industry [due to] a shortage drivers and a shortage of trucks," reports Catherine Anglea, vice president of Complete Freight Systems, a freight broker in Shingle Springs.
A call to any trucking company will confirm that positions are available and drivers are needed for long and short hauls. The pay differs for both.
"If your area is long hauls, you get paid by the mile, usually around 24 cents," she explains. "If you are a local pick-up and delivery (P&D) driver, you can get paid by the hour, and that could range between from $14 and $18."
She warns the long-haul driving could have a negative impact on family life, but short haulers are home everyday.
"Many married couples work as a team, traveling together, and they make a pretty good salary. The 18-wheeler rigs have a bedroom, mini living areas and a kitchenette."
She advises interested jobseekers to get training, a commercial license and then a job with a small local company that will provide a wealth of experience.
"Trucking schools are good," Anglea notes, "because the training gives prospective drivers the understanding of overall operations, keeping a logbook and all about bills of lading."
Ron Hernandez, co-owner of Ron Ray Trucking in Madison, says he desperately needs owner-operator truckers at this time of year.
"The state's agriculture harvest, especially tomatoes, peaches and pears, is booming in the Central Valley and trucks are needed to haul the produce," he reports. "It's a good time to make some good money."
The recent shutdown of Consolidated Freightways shouldn't change long-term prospects for truckers. As the remaining trucking firms pick up the work that Consolidated abandoned, the 2000 drivers laid off statewide should have little trouble finding new jobs.
That's already true at Yellow Freight Systems in Tracy, where distribution manager Scott Birch reports he has recently hired many replacement drivers to handle their increased workload. Still, it will take some time for the trucking labor market to settle down. "So far, we've placed only 35 to 40 workers," points out Chris Folkman, spokesman for Teamster's Local 150 in Sacramento.If behind the wheel is not your thing, positions behind the scenes include clerical workers, customer service reps, managers and dispatchers.
Trucking is the place to answer the call of the open road, but maybe you've always dreamed of going to sea or just working with big ships.
Bill Alverson, terminal manager with CSX Lines in Oakland, reports a wide range of opportunities abound in the shipping industry, from general manager to longshore loading and unloading, dock work, maintenance and cargo documentation.
"Our industry is heavily unionized, so if a person wants to get into loading and unloading the vessels, they need to join an applicable union," he advises. "For office-type positions, the minimum requirement is a bachelor's degree in a business-related field such as finance, management or marketing."
In terms of skilled labor, there is need for machinists to repair the ships, and training is available at local trade schools. Most cargo is containerized, moving to and from the ships by rail or truck, and the tremendous need for truck drivers was reiterated by Alverson.
Crews onboard the vessels are members of the masters, mates and pilots union. Officers are graduates of California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, where they are trained as engineers or deck officers.
Ridin' the Rails
Bill Pointer, an executive with Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad headquarters in Topeka, Kansas, felt the lure of the rails 37 years ago and never looked back.
"I started out in the sorting bureau recording the bills of lading," he recalls. "I've had just about every job here except on the tracks."
He feels the railroad is a wonderful place to work, with plenty of jobs available. Best of all, the retirement benefits are fantastic - free medical and dental coverage, plus five weeks vacation a year. Employees qualify for retirement after ten years with the company. Pointer thinks it would be real foolish to leave such a deal.
"In today's market I advise jobseekers to get into engine service because most of the office positions are being replaced with computers. New hires usually start as brakemen and then move to conductor, the person in charge of the train."
Applicants should have some sort of mechanical aptitude to work on the rails. Specialized training is given at the railroad's various apprentice schools, like Hobart Yard in Los Angeles.
"The engineers have the most fun," Pointer jokes. "They get to sit in the big seat with all the buttons and whistles and push the throttle. But it's not an easy job, because everything is done by the rulebook."
And yes, he admits, there are still a few hobos who ride the rails even though it's illegal. "I work in damage control and resource protection and we try to keep (unauthorized) ridership at a minimum," he says.
"It's not a real high-paying job, but I heard a comment in the elevator the other day from a guy who complained the railroads [don't make enough money these days to pay good salaries].
"I laughed and thought about sitting in an air-conditioned office, hearing the rattle of the rails while the temperature outside hit three digits, getting free medical and dental care and making $40,000 a year . . . that's not bad!"
There's no denying that 9/11 has had a devastating impact on the aviation industry. Tens of thousands of workers have been laid off because a significant portion of the public is reluctant to fly or travel overseas. That, coupled with the recession, has put most air carriers in a tailspin.
Visits to major airline websites reveals there are few or no job openings. Even the successful start-up Jet Blue (jetblue.com) has only three ground-crew openings in Oakland. The best prospects can be found at the FedEx website (fedex.com), which had numerous positions available, from aviation mechanics to customer service representatives. Unfortunately, with more layoffs looming at other airlines, you can expect stiff competition for any openings.
Job opportunities for flight attendants also vary widely. Most airline websites outline a detailed application process. Southwest Airlines (iflyswa.com) hosts one of the more welcoming job sites.
Demand has also slowed for pilots. Joe Allen, a flight instructor with Oakland Flyers, says his business is off somewhat from last year, though he is bullish on the long-term demand for pilots, especially since the military does not turn out the numbers of pilots they used to.
For more information on transportation careers:
- International Longshore and Warehouse Union - (415) 776-8100.
- JobsInLogistics.com - Post resumes, search jobs, and apply online. Job-listing categories include logistics, transportation, distribution, freight, sales, manufacturing and warehousing.
- Masters, Mates and Pilots Maritime Union - (415) 543-5694.
- Quotations.com - A placement company for the transportation industry. Post resumes and search jobs in all fields of the transportation industry. Services are free to jobseekers.
- ShippingInternational.com - Air and ocean shipping, (800) 962-4715.
- TransportationJobStore.com - Part of eJobStores.com, the website features job searches in all fields of the transportation industry, resume posting and confidential career profile posting, salary surveys and information, links to other recruiters in the industry, and more.
- Transportation-Jobs.411jobs.net - This site provides links to search jobs and create and post online resumes. The website also provides links to other career resources and job banks.
Organizations mentioned in this article:
- Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad - bnsf.com, (817) 333-3098.
- Complete Freight Systems - (888) 611-4445.
- California Maritime Academy - csum.edu, (707) 654-1000.
- CSX Lines - (510) 271-1000.
Oakland Flyers - OaklandFlyers.com, (510) 568-3317.
Ron Ray Trucking - (530) 662-1821.