ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A truck driver shortage will affect the availability of items on store shelves. That’s what’s ahead if companies can’t recruit new drivers, said the president of the Trucking Association of New York (TANY).

The industry was experiencing problems before COVID, but the pandemic exacerbated the problem, said Kendra Hems. She said TANY works with other trucking associations across the U.S. and it’s the same situation everywhere.

“We are in a fortunate position to have minimal interruptions. Our drivers are able to make deliveries to our shops every three days due to our vertical integration,” said Erica Komoroske, the director of public affairs at Stewart’s Shops. “Hiring has been a challenge as we navigate through COVID ripple effects, but we are able to attract talent because of our competitive compensation package and driver training program.”

Hems said it comes down to the recruitment of younger drivers and changing the image of what it means to be a truck driver. She said TANY has been focusing on initiatives to try and tackle both issues. She also acknowledges that being a truck driver isn’t easy work, as it means a lot of time away from home.

Komoroske confirmed that Stewart’s biggest problem has been outside truck companies getting products and/or supplies to Stewart’s. She also said they are always hiring drivers for future growth.

Hems said she wants those considering becoming truck drivers to realize that it’s about more than just driving a truck. Hauling goods and supplies is a critical component of the supply chain and there is room for professional growth outside of driving.

It’s difficult to recruit drivers straight from high school, because they need to be 21 in order to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Hems says that’s expected to change. The New York State Legislature approved a bill that would allow 18-20 year-olds to get a CDL permit and begin training. The bill must now be signed by the governor.