By Chris Tye

CHICAGO (CBS) —They’re calling them L.A. traffic jams in the shipping lanes of the Pacific Ocean.

Cargo ships stuck at sea because there aren’t enough truck drivers to unload the shipments from Asia.

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As CBS 2’S Chris Tye reports, it’s going to create a squeeze on holiday shopping nationally but an opportunity for those willing to reboot their careers behind the wheel of a big rig.

“I really can’t put my finger on where the black cloud came from that hangs over the industry.”

But the cloud around the truck driving industry is quickly lifting. Trucker shortages have left cargo ships stacked up off the coast of California. And left classrooms for would-be truckers in Chicago at capacity.

“The demand is probably never been greater, from an industry standpoint with the shortage of drivers.”

Vernon Cooper runs Progressive Truck Driving School in south suburban Lansing. Classes here last 160 Hours at a cost of $4,000. Starting salaries range between $60,000 and $80,000. And a new trend shows 25% of students are female.

“By the end of October, I should be good.”

Gia Burnett left a job as an occupational therapist where COVID knocked her down to four hours a day. This mid-life reboot has triggered an entrepreneurial spirit.

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“I’m going to try and get with a company I can grow with, then I can buy my own truck and become an owner-operator. Got to get past step one,” Burnett said.

“There’s the supply side. There’s getting drivers into the industry getting them trained and in trucks. Then getting equipment to act for the demand for freight.”

Nick Najjar is the Director of Transportation for Land O’Lakes. He said what is also stuck in these freighters: trucking equipment and engineering parts vital to making consumer production work. All part of a logistical headache that may leave shelves a little thin this holiday season.

But for Gia, job security has never been better.

“With this, I can work as many hours as I need to,” Burnett said. “I don’t have to be limited to four hours.”

When might this driver shortage end? Last year at this time the forecast was mid 2021. With that proven wrong, the new forecast is mid-2022. But many are suspect.

However, demand for these drivers only intensifying, as salaries once reserved for industry vets are now being doled out to new drivers in year one.

Some with the Port of Los Angeles said the best advice is to do your holiday shopping early. Tthe lingering effects of this logjam may seep into the holiday season of next year.

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