In an effort to get more commercial truck drivers on the road and unclog supply-chain bottlenecks, the Biden administration said Thursday it will seek to make the driver certification process easier and expand apprenticeship programs available through employers with trucking fleets, according to The Wall Street Journal.
- The plan will also seek to improve driver retention and the quality of the driving jobs being offered.
Not instant relief: “The programs aren’t likely to have an immediate impact on bottlenecks tied to scarce trucking capacity and labor-strapped distribution hubs as a flood of imports overwhelms domestic logistics networks. But officials said the plan would help address pandemic-driven delays in getting commercial driver’s licenses and tackle longstanding challenges.”
Pandemic-worsened shortage: COVID-19 has exacerbated the trucking industry’s driver shortage. Currently, about 80,000 driver positions remain unfilled, and more drivers are “needed to keep goods moving freely this year,” according to the American Trucking Association.
Infrastructure bill provision: The infrastructure bill included an ATA-backed measure to create a pilot program that would loosen age restrictions and allow some 18- to 20-year-olds to drive large rigs over state lines. That job is currently limited to drivers 21 years old and older.
Raising pay and adding drivers: “Trucking companies have been raising driver wages in an effort to boost recruitment and retention, and expanding training programs aimed at funneling new drivers into their fleets. The sector added 5,600 jobs in November in the sixth straight month of gains, according to seasonally adjusted Labor Department data, bringing overall payrolls closer to pre-pandemic levels, though trucking capacity remains tight on robust transportation demand.”
The NAM says: “Yesterday’s announcement addresses many longstanding issues in the trucking industry and confirms a commitment from the White House to engage on one of the most pressing concerns affecting our national supply chain,” said NAM Director of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Ben Siegrist. “The NAM has long called for sensible action focused on workforce shortages in the industrial supply chain and this plan is a step in the right direction. We look forward to continuing to work with federal partners to support policies that will ease congestion on the nation’s roads and transport systems, reduce shipping costs and keep essential goods moving for America’s manufacturers.”