Market spotlights need for truck drivers in Kenosha County

Prior to 2020, “supply chain” wasn’t really a household term.

However, driven by the surge in home deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s come out of the shadows and is something, quite literally, delivered to your doorstep.

“Suddenly everyone knows about supply chains,” joked Pritosh Kumar, assistant professor of supply chain management at UW-Parkside. “It was a well-oiled machine … Now people are trying to get more prepared for a future that might disturb it.”

While its hard to know how much the average American thought about supply chains prior to 2020, its certainly clear that the pandemic put it at the forefront of many peoples’ minds as reports about factory disruptions and worker shortages filled the news.

One of those often-discussed shortages was in truck drivers.

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Kotra CDL Driving School, a Kenosha professional truck driving school that moved to a new location at 1730 22nd Ave. earlier this year, said interest in licenses jumped during the pandemic.

“We were pretty busy,” said Kotra President Martin Rizo.

While it’s a post-pandemic Kenosha today, large scale industrial developments have continued to expand locally and across the country, requiring drivers.

National issue

Trucking plays a critical role in the United States, with 72% of domestic cargo moved by trucks, Kumar said. In 2022, there was nearly three million semi-trucks in the US, and 13.8 million six-tire and larger trucks.

With the onset of the pandemic, suddenly everyone needed truck drivers immediately, leading to a spike of “spot rate” trucking, Kumar explained. Spot rate trucking is an on-demand, short-term agreement between a company and carrier to move freight, as opposed to contract trucking, which is more long-term.

During the pandemic, more people entered the trucking industry while spot rates were very high, Kumar said. That pandemic-driven boom has since been followed by smaller and individual carriers leaving the industry as spot rates have dropped and contract trucking returns to the forefront, he said.

“As the money went away from the market and the consumer demand eased out towards the end of the 2022-23 period, the spot rates dived,” Kumar said.

Kumar said the market is generally returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Carthage Assistant Professor of Management and Marketing Joseph Tenuta said the driver shortage dates back to far before the pandemic, and he expects the demand for truckers to remain elevated in the United States.

In the 1960’s being a truck driver “was a very noble position, they were unionized, they had good benefits,” Tenuta said. With deregulation in the 70s and 80s, benefits fell away and young people weren’t being drawn into the profession as much.

Kenosha County

Kumar and Tenuta both agreed that in Kenosha County, with its abundance of warehouse and industrial buildings, trucking will remain in demand for the foreseeable future.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development indicates roughly 10,000 people are employed in the warehousing and transportation industry in Kenosha County, with the sub-sector growing substantially in the last few decades.

Kenosha County’s location, sitting between Milwaukee and Chicago, makes it an ideal location for companies. According to Tenuta, $25 billion worth of products travel through the corridor every year.

Growth is continuing, with companies such as Amazon and Uline making major expansions in Kenosha County in recent years, with more still planned.

Already this year, Uline has indicated plans to develop another 325,000-square-foot office building, known as H4, on approximately 45 acres of vacant property north of 104th Street on the east side of 128th Avenue.


A rendering of the proposed fourth Uline headquarters office building, to be located near Headquarters 1 in Pleasant Prairie. The multi-story building will have over 325,000-square-feet of interior space.

Kumar said truck drivers often prefer local, shorter travel jobs if the permanency is there.

“Coming to Kenosha, you see an explosion in distribution and fulfillment centers,” Kumar said. “They’re connected with each other.”

Rizo, himself a UPS truck driver for 14 years, said professional trucking offers valuable opportunities for people. After the increase seen during the pandemic, Rizo said classes have remained popular. The school is often contacted by area companies hoping to get new drivers.


President Martin Rizo, Martin Rizo Jr., and Marisela Lopez, of Kenosha trucking school CDL Kotra, at their new school and training facility at 1730 22nd Ave. The school has seen increased interest in licenses since the pandemic. The need for qualified drivers is expected to remain strong, especially in growing area like Kenosha County.

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“It’s an easy way to make good money, and when you get your CDL it opens doors, you get more opportunities,” Rizo said. “You’re a professional driver.”

Growing trend

Tenuta said the cultural shift towards online shopping was already putting pressure on an ongoing truck driver shortage. The pandemic “accelerated the trend.”

People often don’t understand the role trucking plays in the supply chain, generally only seeing the last-mile delivery, Tenuta said.

“Say you go online and buy a charger … you can get that within a day,” he said. “The supply chain started a year ago … and every leg, from port to distribution facility to a fulfillment center, a truck driver plays an integral part in that whole chain.”

The pandemic and the war in Ukraine both shook up supply chains, Tenuta said, and companies, hoping to avoid vulnerabilities in their supply chains, have since adapted.

“World events … they forced people to have contingency plans, tiers of suppliers so they’re not left vulnerable to disruptions,” Tenuta said.


The newest Amazon warehouse in Kenosha County, has over 160 aisles that can hold up to 40 million products according to the company. The facility, located at 10601 38th St., is another expansion to Amazon’s growing Kenosha County campus.

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As manufacturers diversify, “they’re going to need truckers to bring products and goods to where they need to be,” Tenuta said, and the role of trucking remains critical with truck drivers needed throughout the supply chain.

That need has pushed some companies to begin thinking about the future of their trucking workforce, Tenuta argued, meaning better starting wages, benefits and training.

“If you’re a type of person who likes to be on the road, it’s becoming a viable profession again,” Tenuta said.


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