The logistics and transportation industry is weighing in with support for the Biden administration’s recently announced efforts to boost the truck driver workforce, but they say more solutions are needed to tackle the longstanding challenges that plague the industry.
The administration unveiled a plan last week to strengthen the country’s truck driver workforce as part of its broader effort to address supply chain challenges via the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, launched in June. The Trucking Action Plan includes four key elements: helping states reduce barriers to obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL); a 90-day challenge to increase the number of registered driver apprenticeships nationwide; military veteran-focused outreach and recruitment; and a “Driving Good Jobs” partnership between the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Labor (DOL) that will investigate industry challenges and identify longer term actions for addressing them.
Logistics industry trade groups praised the recruitment and apprenticeship efforts, but said more work is needed to address concerns such as driver retention issues and relief from some regulatory requirements.
Tom Madrecki, vice president of supply chain and logistics for the Consumer Brands Association, said in a December 16 statement that the group has “... long argued that supply chain bottlenecks do not end at the ports, and we are pleased to see that the administration is acting on common-sense solutions, like increasing truck driver recruitment efforts in a labor market that is 80,000 drivers short. We urge the administration to continue to work toward solutions, like establishing an 'air traffic control' system for ground transport and bringing more flexibility to truck weight requirements, to expand trucking capacity and allow the [consumer packaged goods] industry to reliably deliver the essentials consumers rely on every day.
“Solving the supply chain crisis will require dedicated attention from the federal government— attention that cannot wane after the holidays are over. We thank the Biden-Harris administration for its leadership and urge continued focus on the issues that will have the greatest impact on the availability of essential goods.”
Bill Sullivan, executive vice president of advocacy for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), emphasized the need for more apprenticeships throughout the industry.
“We are encouraged that the Biden Administration has not only recognized the importance of adding new and well-trained Americans to the trucking workforce, but has announced a path forward with what we believe will become a robust training opportunity for future commercial truck drivers,” he said in a press statement. “Using apprenticeships will help any American pursue a career in this great industry for good wages and benefits in a safe manner without the significant debt many jobseekers can sometimes incur.
“We applaud the Biden Administration for taking these important steps and we look forward to working with them to ensure a smooth and rapid implementation of the commitments made today.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA), which represents small businesses and professional truck drivers, homed in on the need for longer-term action and driver retention.
“There are some elements in the plan we support, including further analysis of driver compensation and unpaid detention time,” OOIDA President Tom Spencer said in a statement following the administration’s announcement. “However, the plan fails to address excessively high driver turnover rates. Attracting and training new drivers won’t solve the larger problem of retention. We need to create an environment where truckers can have long, safe and productive careers.”