MINNEAPOLIS – In May’s otherwise bleak jobs report, one sector of the economy stood out for all the right reasons: The trucking industry is running full speed ahead and hiring drivers.

“We can’t get trucks and that means there are not enough drivers,” said Mike Mady, human resources director for the St. Paul, Minn.-based produce processing firm J&J Distributing, which supplies Cub Foods and other grocers with carrots, potatoes, yams and other vegetables and fruits.

Truckers are in hot demand, say trucking and warehouse executives. The American Trucking Association reported last week that trucker turnover is at a four-year high, signaling demand for the most experienced drivers.

The reason? Crops are ripe and a wider array of summer fruits are in demand, J&J officials said.

“Getting merchandise from the West Coast and East Coast to here is difficult because there are not enough drivers … so there are new opportunities for people wanting to get into trucking, for sure,” Mady said.

Companies such as C.H. Robinson, Copeland Trucking, Minneapolis-based Murphy Warehouse and others echoed their own hiring bursts. The activity is showing up in economic data. The U.S. Department of Labor reported a gain of just 69,000 non-farm jobs nationwide in May. But more than half the gains came from transportation and warehousing.

The American Trucking Association recently reported that trucked tonnage is up 3.8 percent so far this year. May marked the third straight positive month for the Ceridian index, which tracks diesel fuel purchases for trucks hauling produce, components and finished goods to factories or stores across the country.

Nationally, Todd Spencer, executive vice president with the 150,000-member Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said truckers are enjoying renewed demand from the spike in summer construction projects, manufacturing, the return of the auto sector and a bump from select real estate markets.

“In general, trucking has been picking up over the last 18 months. Not great guns, but a little bit, consistently,” Spencer said.