What are the current problems within the trucking sector?
While the debate has been ongoing, the Biden administration has made it clear that the significant problem is a driver shortage. Regardless of the long-term problem boiling down to driver recruitment or driver retention, the Biden Administration announced a 90-day Trucking Action Plan to help bring the US back on track and solve many of the nation’s supply chain problems. The goal is to recruit and train a new generation of drivers to help get the numbers back to pre-pandemic levels.
Why is this an essential step for the US?
According to the Census Bureau, approximately 72% of all goods transported are moved by trucks. The White House cited many reasons for the driver shortage throughout by stating, “The industry, as of late, has had underlying problems-including an aging workforce, high turnover rates, and unpaid, wasted time for drivers.”
The ATA stated that in 2021, the US driver shortage hit an all-time high of 80,000. They attributed this to many factors, including increased retirements, women making up only 7% of drivers nationwide, and the inability of some drivers to pass a drug test due to some states legalizing marijuana. However, driver regulations are federal, and the mandated minimum age is 21.
What is the Trucking Action Plan?
On December 16, 2021, the Biden Administration announced a 90-day plan to combat the driver shortage and supply chain issues. Through a strategically developed plan aimed to attack the problem from all sides, the White House stated that “A stronger trucking workforce is one where trucking jobs are good, safe, and stable — jobs that employers can attract a new generation of drivers into while retaining existing drivers to deliver for clients and grow their businesses.” The White House has created many steps to attract that new generation of drivers while maintaining support for the current drivers.
Creating Apprenticeship Programs
Following up on the FMCSA’s decision in 2019 to establish pilot programs for drivers between the ages of 18-21, the White House has put a significant focus on creating apprenticeship programs within the industry. The DOL has announced plans to work with trucking companies, stating that “any employer can launch an apprenticeship program within 48 hours”.
The White House stated, “Expanding this proven workforce strategy in trucking is critical for ensuring high-quality training for new drivers and helping employers develop and retain a skilled and safe workforce.” The DOL has announced that it is investing 8 million in more intermediaries to help employers start Registered Apprenticeships in trucking and other supply chain industries. In addition, the DOL’s Office of Apprenticeship launched a website for interested employers.
The White House announced that the DOL and the VA would work together with Veterans Service Organizations, Military Service Organizations, unions, industry trucking associations, training providers, and private partners to enable transitioning service members and veterans to attain good jobs in the trucking industry.
There are approximately 70,000 veterans that have obtained trucking experience within the last five years. The goal with these new partnerships is to bridge the gap between veterans with experience and companies that desire to move forward in building new foundations that are sustainable.
Launching the Driving Good Initiative
The Biden Administration announced the launch of the Driving Good Initiative, which is set to host listening sessions that engage drivers, unions, and work centers to encourage efforts to bring in new drivers from underrepresented communities. The initiative aims to set up a task force to identify longer-term actions, such as administrative or regulatory actions that support drivers and driver retention by improving the quality of trucking jobs.
Throughout 2021, the monthly average of CLP’s issued across the US has been 20% higher than 2019 and 70% higher than 2020. Due to Covid-19 forcing many closures throughout 2020, a significant backlog in the issuing of CDL’s across all 50 states began. As part of the new plan, the FMCSA announced that it would provide $30 million in funding to states to help expedite CDL’s and get more drivers out on the roadways.