With the passage of the recent infrastructure bill, the profession of truck driving may soon become a lot safer while drivers navigate the country’s roads and bridges. But the White House and Biden Administration are not done with trucking yet.
Some in the trucking industry say we have “truck driver shortage.” Others say a “deficit in drivers.” And some drivers think that the job simply needs to entice more people to join the career and stick with it.
Whatever the exact nature of the problem, a lack of drivers has compounded with the ongoing pandemic and other problems in the supply chain, which has delayed deliveries across the country.
In response the White House has announced their new “Trucking Action Plan.”
According to the official White House statement:
“Seventy-two percent of goods in America are shipped by truck, and in most communities, trucks are the only form of delivery. A strong, stable, and safe trucking workforce that offers good-paying jobs to millions of truck drivers is a critical lifeblood of our economy. But outdated infrastructure, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a historic volume of goods moving through our economy have strained capacity across the supply chain, including in trucking.”
What Does the Trucking Action Plan Do?
First, the Trucking Action Plan will make it easier to get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will give over $30 million to individual states in order to help speed along the process of issuing more CDLs.
Second, the Trucking Action Plan will propose a 90-day Challenge to rapidly grow the number of Registered Apprenticeships. According to the White House, there are already more than 10,000 apprentices in the trucking industry, and the Registered Apprenticeship program is a fast-track to getting experienced drivers into jobs that offer good pay.
Third, the plan will increase outreach to veterans and attempt to recruit them to the career of truck driving It’s true that veterans often make great truck drivers. Veterans tend to be responsible, disciplined, and can be trusted with the safety of others when handling heavy machinery, such as an 80,000-pound truck. Veterans are also used to being away from home, which is often the biggest challenge for new truck drivers. And some veterans even have trucking experience from their time in service.
Finally, the Trucking Action Plan will launch a joint program between the Department of Transportation and the Department of Labor called the “Driving Good Jobs” initiative. The Driving Good Jobs portion of the program will attempt to make truck driving a more appealing job.
This will involve hosting listening sessions with drivers, unions, worker centers, and other industry advocates. The departments will study the issue of truck driver pay and unpaid detention time, and they will work with companies that “support job quality and driver retention that can be scaled.”
Of course, this initiative will also attempt to reach out to new drivers as well. The Driving Good Jobs initiative will look at ways to reach demographics that aren’t well-represented in trucking, trying to expand opportunities for women and young drivers between the ages of 18-20, who can currently drive intrastate.
Will the Trucking Action Plan Improve Driving Or Simply Expand the Labor Pool?
As with many trucking initiatives, there is a debate between whether policies grow the amount of truck drivers and increase driver retention by improving the job and the career path… or if they simply attract more drivers as older drivers become disillusioned.
It’s clear that the first few bullet points in the Trucking Action Plan are designed to expand the labor pool, but the final “Driving Good Jobs” initiative is also dedicated to looking at driver pay and unpaid labor time.
The American Prospect writes, “The White House effort on trucking is too focused on finding more drivers and not focused enough on making trucking jobs better.”
This criticism from the left argues that there isn’t a truck driver shortage. Instead, there’s a living wage shortage, caused by decades of deregulation, lower worker protections, and more unpaid labor.
Whether or not the “Driving Good Jobs” portion of the Trucking Action Plan will be enough to stem the criticism is something to watch.