A group of trucking industry representatives recently met with federal officials including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, and Deputy Administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Meera Joshi.
The roundtable, part of the Biden administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, focused on efforts to improve supply chain logistics and driver retention.
Trucking industry attendees included the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Truck Safety Coalition, and the Women in Trucking Association. Also in attendance at the conference was Raman Dhillon, CEO of the North American Punjabi Trucking Association.
“Our economy is getting back on its feet, but the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated longstanding challenges in our supply chain—including truck driver retention,” Buttigieg said. “We are bringing government, industry, and key stakeholders together to help support truck drivers and all the consumers and businesses who rely on them.”
Disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain concerns have been a major focus of transportation officials. One of the biggest concerns has been the shortage of new drivers.
ATA Executive Vice President of Advocacy Bill Sullivan noted the need for trucking to reach out to new talent, including female and younger drivers. Currently, the trucking industry is not doing a good job of replacing aging drivers. The average age of a truck driver is well above the national average of workers and new recruits tend to also be older, averaging 35 years old, making trucking a last resort for many job seekers.
Federal apprenticeship programs may be one way to lure new drivers. According to Secretary Walsh, apprenticeships help incoming drivers pay for the debt they may have incurred during training as well as in helping drivers prepare for the rigors of the job.
“Registered Apprenticeship—which offers workers quality, on-the-job training along with wage progression, and has been shown to improve job retention—can help build a more stable and resilient workforce,” Walsh said. “I look forward to working with Secretary Buttigieg and industry leaders to expand Registered Apprenticeship in order to improve access and retention in the trucking industry.”
As part of federal efforts, the FMCSA is supporting state DMVs in issuing commercial driver’s licenses. DOT reports that approximately 50,000 CDLs have been issued each month this year, representing a 60% increase over 2020 (pandemic related) and a 14% increase from 2019.