Livestock producers and feedlots are facing a trucker shortage


Rachel Gabel, The Fence Post

November 30, 2018


Labor shortages are complicating the daily activities in production agriculture in all segments, including livestock hauling. While finding truck drivers is difficult in this market, finding livestock-savvy drivers able to transport hogs and cattle is an entirely different beast.


Philip Simms, who owns and operates Philip Simms Trucking, LLC in Otis, Colo., said finding drivers with any sort of livestock experience is proving extremely difficult. So difficult, in fact, that Simms is contemplating a truck driver training school for livestock.


"We get more calls wanting to haul livestock than any other call we get," he said. "None of them have any experience and you just can't hire people and send them out to haul livestock. It doesn't work."


In most cases, Simms said the driver is the one who loads the cattle, a strenuous job that requires a number of skills and a certain amount of cow sense.


"It's something you almost have to just grow up around," he said. "It's so hard to find someone you can trust. No rancher, no feedlot wants some guy showing up that doesn't know what he's doing."


Simms said he has trained people in the past who wanted to be livestock haulers until they had to get in the trailer with the stock and were intimidated. Some are even repelled by the smell and don't continue in the career.


Simms attributes some of the shortage to the oil field, an entity that hires a huge number of drivers and operators. Even so, he said, livestock haulers are a different "breed" that he said don't typically gravitate to other types of freight.


"Usually when the oilfield shuts down, then you start having them lined up at your door wanting a job," he said. "Livestock is just its own unique community. We need to hang on to the good ones."


Simms has a fleet of trucks and uses a handful of owner operators, a route that can be best for livestock haulers. Simms, and many like him, cite labor as one of his biggest challenges and is the limiting factor standing between him and business growth. Simms hauls hogs from Las Animas, Colo., to Fremont, Neb., and cattle all over the country. In previous years, his hauls were in Iowa and west but have been cut back as a result of a shortage of drivers. Simms began with his own truck in 1984 and also continues to farm in addition to his trucking business.