The supply chain interruptions have put a spotlight on a problem building for years — the truck driver shortage.
In 2018, the American Trucking Associations estimated about 50,000 more drivers were needed to meet the demand. The mounting difficulties came as younger generations were less interested in the jobs and the existing workforce aged. Pre-pandemic, industry figures put turnover in large fleets as high as 95%.
Then the pandemic ushered in retirements and resignations for less stressful and better paying work. It’s put an unprecedented strain on the trucking industry.
Truck driving can be tough work, often taking drivers away from families for days or weeks at a time. The median annual wage for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $47,130 in May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Gov. Kevin Stitt and 14 Republican governors are blaming the Biden administration and calling for a lift of regulations to what they call “burdensome regulation” of the trucking industry.
In “Operation Open Roads,“ the governors offer recommendations including lowering the driving age to 18, dropping the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for private employers, removing education and licensure requirements, adjusting hours drivers could work and modifying weight, size and load restrictions.
While deregulation sounds like a solution, these were put into place for safety of drivers and others on the road. Any revision must consider the origin of the rule and consequences of removal.
Third District Congressman Frank Lucas joined a bipartisan group to encourage the U.S. Labor Department to use a workforce development grant program to prioritize truck driver training program. This would bolster recruiting without lowering standards in the industry.
Recent reports show the Port of Los Angeles backlog is decreasing, and major retailers have shelves stocked for the holidays. Projections indicate a profitable holiday shopping season.
This is good news for business, but the truck driver shortage isn’t going away.
States can ensure enough drivers license testing agencies are open and fully staffed. Another possibility is to allow truck driving schools to give the commercial driving license exams. More can be done with workforce development programs in recruitment and training.
The recently passed infrastructure bill includes funding to increase truck driver training to workers as young as 18 to drive across state lines through apprenticeship programs.
A lack of drivers isn’t the only reason for the supply chain delays, but it is a significant one that can be solved with bipartisan thinking.