For Truckers, The Good Times Roll

Anyway you look at him, Bobby LaRouche is a big Kahuna: a truck driver in demand by an industry short on help.

At the big Las Vegas truck show earlier this month, CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen reports, LaRouche had every reason to feel like he was king of the road.

"We come to the truck shows here and meet up with the recruiters and I've got four of them right now on the hook. And they're trying to reel me in," LaRouche bragged. "They'll promise you the moon and the stars."
The reason the sky is the limit for truckers these days is that there's trouble on the horizon for retailers: namely, demographics.

"The generation that drove trucks for so long is retiring and we don't have a lot of new youth coming in underneath them," said Joel Anderson of the California Trucking Association.

The timing couldn't be worse. With a growing web-based economy, even more trucks are needed to deliver goods ordered over the Internet.

It's estimated there are 80,000 driver openings.

But at an average starting salary of $30,000 for a job known for long hours, it's hard to get bodies behind those steering wheels.

"You can work two jobs at McDonalds and make as much money as you do running a truck. So it's getting real tough," said Gary Jones of the Independent Truckers Association.

So, the industry is wooing new road warriors by imitating what those up-start dot.com companies have been doing: offering perks.

"We have a concierge so that we have someone to answer the driver's questions when they come in," said Prime Trucking's Jack Low, who figured he needed to keep his drivers and their families very happy to keep his 2,400 trucks on the road.

So he created a piece of trucker heaven at his Missouri headquarters.

"We have upscale food service offerings, (a) fitness center," said Low. "If we can add a few more good people because of the child care, learning center offering, that's a good thing."

It's too soon to know if Low's Taj Mahal of trucking is working, but down the road in Dallas, Barry Eastlack knows something has to be done: He's got too many trucks going nowhere.

"It's gut wrenching," said Eastlack. "It's gut wrenching. Everyday, everyday, trying to get drivers is like the Sahara trying to get rain."

But for LaRouche, it's the ride of a lifetime, and he's in the driver's seat.

"I've been offered a $2000 sign-on bonus just to get me through the door," he said.