MENANDS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — During the pandemic, truckers became our heroes, delivering essential items to stores and homes.

A shortage of drivers now seems to be reaching a critical peak and is forcing a change within the industry itself.

“What’s good about the shortage is that companies are evolving.”

Jamie Bernard, recruiting manager at The CDL School in Menands says part of that evolution means that companies are offering incentives never seen before within the trucking industry. Things like more flexible hours, better benefits and higher entry-level pay.

“A typical entry-level salary 10 years ago might have been $35,000. And now people are seeing now $50,000 $55,000 in their first year.”

Bernard says the offers are even higher if drivers are willing to unload their shipments when they reach their destinations.

“Staring off at $68,000 $70,000 $72,000. Because they [employers] are struggling to find people who are willing to drive and do labor that goes along with unloading,” she adds.

So with all the great income why is there a shortage?

Industry insiders like Bernard say it began long before the pandemic.

First, there’s the potential for long hours, even weeks on the road. Making it tough to have a work-life balance. And, if you’re paid by the mile and get stuck in construction or storms that can impact your income.

There’s also a generation of drivers (typically males ages 45 and older) who are entering retirement and there are many new openings right now.

But Jonathan Peters, Ph.d. a Professor of Finance & Data Analytics at the College of Staten Island, says the industry itself really needs to bear some burden of blame.

“Obviously if they’re having a shortage problem then something’s off. Either the compensation is off, or the benefits are off, or the working conditions. And again, during Covid19 I know truckers faced a lot of challenges,” says Peters.

Bernard says it’s why students who can get a CDL license, which typically takes four to eight weeks of training, need to ask the right questions of employers. She says The CDL School offers lifetime job placement assistance and help setting up interviews and the questions that help secure the job a graduate might prefer.

“They can really interview the company.”

She adds that the demand means more options and greater opportunities now more than ever should you choose a career on the road.