TAMPA - According to the American Trucking Association, supply chain delays continue to be an issue due to a nation-wide shortage of truck drivers.

The group estimates the shortage is at about 80,000 and is expected to grow to 160,000 drivers in the next 10 years.

Roadmaster Drivers School in Tampa says they are seeing some signs of improvement recently with more applicants from diverse backgrounds and professions applying to get a trucking license. 

The school is opening a new larger facility in Apopka, Florida, to help meet the demand.

“We’re expanding to meet the demand for drivers which has been growing quite a bit,” said Roadmaster Drivers School President Brad Ball. “Ever since COVID, we’ve had a lot of people interested. People that lost their jobs in hospitality and all kinds of different industries are finding that trucking is recession proof, pandemic proof and a great place to find home.”

Ball says there has been an incredible growth in minorities and women in trucking. 

A few years ago, statistics show that women made up 7% of the industry. Today Ball says 15% of the students on his campus are female. 

Crystal Mitchell is working on getting her truck driving license.  “We would look at our exhaust system,” she said while checking her vehicle. “We would check the belt. “ 

She’s learning all that comes with operating a nearly 35,000 pound semi.

“There is more into trucking than I originally thought. We’re learning the rules, the federal laws,” she added. 

It’s a different kind of responsibility and the stay-at-home wife and mother of two isn’t taking it lightly. 

“We were finding ourselves in a little bit of a pickle because everything was closed down due to the pandemic and we needed income and I kind of said something like ‘I hear they make good money in trucking,” she chuckled.

That was two years ago when her husband’s work in the entertainment industry dried up during the pandemic and the couple was driven to find another option.

Crystal’s husband went to trucking school and started driving full time. 

Now Crystal is taking her turn behind the wheel. 

“This is a career change that I am more than capable of doing, so I just went for it,” she added. Labor statistics show truck drivers can make up to $62,500 dollars in their first year.

Crystal sees that as just one of the perks of the job. “It is money, and it’s a good field to be in. That’s why so many of us are doing it,” she said. 

She’s hopeful her new career will offer the flexibility she needs for her family, along with job security. She and her husband have already purchased a truck and started their own company.

“I really look forward to being with my husband again and team driving. Having our family together that is most important to me,” said Crystal. Once she finishes her training and gets her commercial driver’s license, she’ll be ready to map out her course and start a new “journey” with her family.