What Action Is the Government Taking to Ramp up Trucker Recruitment?
Updated: Jan 24, 2022
Problems in US supply chains have worsened considerably in the last 12 months, with truckers leaving the industry in their droves. Truck drivers have been in short supply for some time now.
The recent wave of retirements combined with increasing numbers of drivers quitting trucking for less stressful roles has created a perfect storm. The shortage is culminating in congested ports, overflowing warehouses, and panic among holiday shoppers as empty store shelves become an increasingly common sight.
According to an American Trucking Associations report published in October 2021, the US trucking industry is short by 80,000 drivers, a deficit that the association warned could double by 2030 as more truck drivers retire. An extraordinary surge in demand for goods has pushed supply chains to breaking point, with trucking companies scrambling to keep up.
Overwork Is Affecting Mental and Physical Health of Truck Drivers
Michael Gary started truck driving in 2012. Facing a crippling $50,000 student debt, he discovered that he could drastically reduce his overheads by living out of his truck. Speaking with The New York Times, Gary explains that the job started to take its toll on his relationships.
Away from home for weeks on end, he could not prioritize his health. Gary quit truck driving in October this year. With no personal life outside of his truck, he had finally had enough. Michael Gary is just one of thousands of truck drivers who have left the sector in search of less stressful, more family-friendly roles.
Addressing Supply Chain Disruption at the Federal Level
Supply chain disruption is taking a heavy toll on economic growth in the US, pushing up prices for American consumers. In November 2021, the White House announced a series of steps designed to alleviate supply chain issues, including allowing ports to redirect federal funds to ease backlogs.
As part of the measures, the Port of Savannah could reallocate more than $8 million in funding. This would enable it to finance the creation of five pop-up container yards in North Carolina and Georgia. Ships could then offload cargo more quickly.
In October 2021, President Biden announced that major ports and private companies would start operating 24/7 as part of efforts to ease the gridlock. However, early results indicate that trucking remains a major stumbling block. To remedy this, the White House unveiled plans to boost the number of commercial truck drivers in December 2021.
Officials announced that they would be streamlining and simplifying the process for drivers to get certified. In addition, the administration pledged to help revitalize and expand apprenticeship programs through carriers and other companies with trucking fleets, partnering with companies like the grocery chain Albertsons Cos, and Kansas-based trucker Yellow Corp.
Improving Trucking at the Industry Level
The White House plans also emphasized the need for improved industry retention and enhancing the quality of trucking jobs, according to senior administration officials. The Transportation and Labor departments will now address driver pay rates.
Compensation is a painful topic for many truckers, who are often forced to spend hours in their cabs, waiting to load or unload. The administration will also look into truck-leasing programs that officials claim prey on drivers, as well as gathering feedback from labor unions and industry groups.
The measures are unlikely to have an immediate impact on bottlenecks. However, officials explained that they would help alleviate pandemic-driven delays in processing commercial driver’s licenses. They will also help tackling longstanding challenges within the industry, such as high turnover.
Trucking Provides Stable, Lucrative Employment
The trucking industry is responsible for transporting approximately 70 percent of all domestic freight in America today. This new government initiative proposes to bolster efforts across government agencies and private-sector employers, expanding the recruitment pipeline, according to officials. As part of the plans, a $1 trillion infrastructure package was signed last month designed to attract more women, veterans, and young people to the profession.
Trucker 22-year-old Kevonte Brown of Iowa City completed his truck driving training program in November 2021. He benefited from the support of a state workforce program that helped with course expenses.
Speaking with The Gazette, Brown reported that he had already been offered a six-figure salary, along with several of his classmates. He had companies calling left and right, keen for a new generation to fill open positions. As Kevonte Brown pointed out, wherever he lives in the US, or in the world, he will never be short of work now he has his truck driving license.
Pandemic: Problems and Possibility
The pandemic created unprecedented economic disruption in countries all over the world. In the short-term, it undeniably exacerbated existing pressures on US freight transportation and logistics. But in the long-term, many contend that an industrywide shake-up was overdue, with a steady stream of retiring truck drivers failing to be replaced in recent decades.
As with numerous other sectors, disruption created by COVID-19 has created opportunities as well as problems in the trucking industry. Whether the administration’s measures will go far enough is yet to be seen.
However, they could be a positive move in terms of making trucking a much more attractive proposition. They will help the industry tap into the female labor force and employ young workers, veterans, and other underrepresented demographics to plug the ever-increasing deficit of US truckers.