Craig Hvidsten always thought he was going to be a farmer. Instead, he found himself living in the Twin Cities and working in various accounting jobs for Cargill. “Our fiscal year ended May 31,” he said. “I worked long hours at year-end and got as pale as could be, looking out at the surroundings without being in them.”

After trying some other things, “somebody talked to me about trucking. I was a little boy that liked trucks. I also have always enjoyed going places. After 13 years in the office, I had that taste for moving around.” To get the required Commercial Drivers License, Hvidsten took a loan to go to trucking school — “just like college,” he said.

His first trucking job was with Roehl Transport, headquartered in Marshfield, Wis. “One of the reasons I chose them was that they have all the services — reefer, flat bed, specialized. They have a really good training program. They are known for safety.” Hvidsten developed a specialty in refrigerated trucks. “It’s more steady. Grocery stores tend to be the last thing to go.”

After 17 months at Roehl, winning some awards and being written up in the company newsletter, Hvidsten was contacted by a recruiter for Bay and Bay Transportation, headquartered in Rosemount. “It was a smaller, kind of mom and pop oriented company. They have these great repair and maintenance facilities. With a lot of companies, you have to sit and wait, and it’s your time you’re burning. Bay and Bay will do everything they can to work with your schedule, and it’s a real advantage,” he said.

One of his most interesting assignments is setting up new Cabela’s stores. “I work with management to see what they want for new inventory. I set up a drop yard close by a store, bring in the inventory ahead of time, have it under lock and key and bring it in on scheduled appointments. It’s very much a nondriving thing. It’s about getting to know their business.”

After just four and a half years as a trucker, Hvidsten said, “I’ve been to all 48 contiguous states. I have seen things I never would have seen. I will always cherish that.”

Is there a demand for truckers?

The current shortage of drivers is about 30,000. I had heard recently that in a few years it will be 45,000 to 50,000. There definitely is a need for skilled drivers.

Is the shortage of drivers tied to low wages?

Truckers get paid by the mile, but other things can add to your income. You start really low out of training — maybe 32 cents a mile. Let’s say you drive 100,000 miles that first year. You make $32,000 plus benefits plus tax breaks for living on the road. As you learn to run more efficiently, you can drive 130,000 miles at 40 cents a mile, plus bonuses and perks. You can easily make $50,000 to $60,000 a year. You have to sit down and figure out driving, breaks, allowing time for loading and unloading. A lot of people don’t want to do that — they just want to get in and drive, and they get into trouble.

Are there career paths for truckers?

Companies that ship are looking for people who understand the industry. You can get into marketing, customer service, planning. If you’re not good at driving you don’t have a chance to get into that. □