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County struggles with CDL driver needs

Signs near industrialized areas of Greenville and Spartanburg counties are attempting to attract truck drivers as manufacturing and construction booms in the region.

While those businesses are flourishing, they are also attracting qualified drivers away from Laurens County is hampering the county’s ability to provide needed services, especially in more rural areas. Truckers with commercial driving licenses (CDLs) are predictably going to higher-paying jobs in the private sector.

“I don’t know what the current vacancy number is, but it’s getting pretty critical,” said Laurens County Administrator Jon Caime.

The county’s solid-waste management department is among the hardest hit by the driver shortage. Qualified CDL drivers are tough to come by, and even those trained here often then take more money and even sign-on bonuses to enter the private workforce.

“We’re doing everything we can to get trash from point A to point B,” Caime said.

Truck drivers, EMTs and paramedics are among the toughest employees to hire and retain for the county. Low wages is at the crux of the matter, Caime said.

“Part of this has to do with the economy,” he said. “Wages are going up pretty dramatically. . . . We’ve kept wages artificially low for so long that it’s getting to a critical stage for us now.”

CDL drivers hired by Laurens County in the past have clocked in for about $11.65 per hour, which is less than $25,000 per year. The 2018-29 fiscal year budget that was to be approved at Tuesday night’s Laurens County Council meeting was to restructure the pay scales for several county departments to make Laurens County more competitive across the region, particularly with Greenwood County.

The pay raise included in the FY2018-19 budget calls for CDL drivers to start at $13.65 an hour, which translates to more than $28,000 per year.

“Hopefully, that will be enough to get people to come to work for us,” Caime said.

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