With challenges to the trucking industry ranging from a shortage of drivers, the ill effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and persistent supply chain issues, the Biden administration is looking to alleviate these problems through its newly released Biden-Harris Trucking Action Plan. More information about the plan was released last week.
The new plan has several aspects, including expanding apprenticeship programs, getting more women into the industry, improving the process for commercial driver’s licensing (CDLs), investigating predatory truck leasing, creating studies to examine pay rates and unpaid detention time, and setting up a pilot program for under-21 drivers, which was mandated in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“In some parts of the trucking industry, 90% of drivers turn over each year,” said the U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Making sure truck drivers are paid and treated fairly is the right thing to do, and it will help with both recruiting new drivers and keeping experienced drivers on the job.”
90 Day Trucking Apprenticeship Challenge
Hoping to increase registered apprenticeships, the Department of Labor and the Department of Transportation has started this program, which they say is a “proven workforce strategy for helping employers and organized labor partners develop and retain a skilled workforce.”
Since the onset of the Challenge one month ago, over 100 employers and industry companies have said they would expand registered apprenticeships. Over the next two months, more informational meetings about the challenge will target employers, trucking groups, and unions.
Women of Trucking Advisory Board
Since only about 8% of truck drivers are women, this board will study ways to get more women behind the wheels of big rigs or into other trucking industry jobs. The board will study the challenges facing women drivers as well as how to lure more women into the profession.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has already begun the process of getting nominations “to ensure the composition of the board represents a cross-section of women in the trucking industry.”
Truck Leasing Task Force
The FMCSA and other agencies will form a task force to review leasing agreements to make truck leasing more equitable and transparent. It will particularly focus on leasing arrangements at ports that require trucks to convert to zero emissions.
It will also look into loans between driver trainees and training schools to determine if new drivers are burdened with unanticipated debt as a result of inequitable arrangements.
Detention Time and Compensation Studies
The FMCSA will soon begin examinations of driver detention time and will partner with the Transportation Research Board to study the various driver pay methods as they relate to both safety and driver retention.
The study on driver detention will focus on data from electronic logging devices (ELDs) to produce “a much more detailed understanding of wait times for drivers across jurisdictions and industry sectors,” according to the Department of Labor.
The study on compensation will look at per load or per mile pay in comparison with per hour pay. The study will also take into consideration driver quality of life including time spent away from home. It will particularly focus on the true amount of time a driver spends working, including detention time, to determine real hourly wages.
Federal Funding to States for CDL Licensing
More than $30 million has been targeted to help states quicken the CDL process. The FMCSA has also provided the states with detailed information on how DMVs can expedite licensing.
A statement from the Department of Transportation said, “DOT and FMCSA are supporting state departments of motor vehicles as they return to—or even exceed—pre-pandemic commercial driver’s license (CDL) issuance rates, which is helping bring more truck drivers into the field.”