Thursday, December 30, 2021

White House unveils trucking action plan

By Jennifer Whitlock

A shortage of licensed truck drivers is complicating ongoing supply chain issues, leading the White House to create its Trucking Action Plan.

“The pandemic exacerbated longstanding workforce challenges in the trucking industry, including high turnover rates, an aging workforce, long hours away from home and time spent waiting–often unpaid–to load and unload at congested ports, warehouses and distribution centers,” the Biden administration said in a statement. “Many truckers also bear the burden of gas, insurance and maintenance costs, which reduces their take home pay, creating significant challenges in recruiting and retaining drivers with the right credentials and experience into today’s trucking jobs.”

Immediate steps taken by the administration aim to reduce barriers for drivers obtaining commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), accelerate the expansion of Registered Apprenticeships, focus on military veteran recruitment efforts and launch the joint Department of Transportation (DOT)-Department of Labor (DOL) Driving Good Jobs initiative.

“These actions will support the ongoing economic recovery and lay the foundation for a next generation trucking workforce that will strengthen U.S. competitiveness and support millions of good driving jobs for years to come,” according to the White House statement.

Reducing barriers to obtaining CDLs

In 2021, more than 50,000 CDLs and Learners Permits were issued each month, 20% greater than the 2019 monthly average and 72% greater than the monthly average in 2020. The White House said by the end of this past October, more licenses and permits had been issued in 2021 than all of 2019.

To help with backlogs, state departments of motor vehicles will receive more than $30 million in funding to expedite CDLs. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also sent all 50 states a toolkit with specific actions to expedite licensing.

Expand Registered Apprenticeships

The administration issued a 90-day challenge to trucking employers to develop new Registered Apprenticeship programs and expand existing programs. Through Registered Apprenticeships, apprentice truckers receive paid on-the-job training.

DOL also funded a new apprenticeship intermediary partner, FASTPORT, to help trucking employers, unions and industry associations create and implement Registered Apprenticeship programs in as little as two days. Other national apprenticeship intermediaries received an additional $8 million in funding to help employers start Registered Apprenticeships.

Veteran-focused outreach and recruitment

The DOL’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will begin working with veterans service and military service organizations, unions, trucking industry associations and private partners to help veterans with certified trucking experience transition into trucking industry jobs.

About 70,000 veterans are likely to have certified trucking experience within the past five years, according to the White House. The department added VA currently uses 31 approved commercial driving programs to eligible veterans. More than 8,400 commercial driving programs are approved for use by eligible veterans under the GI Bill.

DOT-DOL Driving Good Jobs initiative

A new partnership between DOT and DOL hopes to identify issues in the trucking industry that lead to low retention rates, study driver pay and unpaid detention time, recognize strategies to attract new entrants, investigate predatory truck leasing arrangements and study potential administrative or regulatory actions to improve the quality of trucking jobs.

“Supporting drivers and ensuring that trucking jobs are good jobs is foundational for a strong, safe and stable trucking workforce,” the White House stated. “A stronger trucking workforce is one where trucking jobs are good, safe, and stable—jobs that employers can attract a new generation of drivers into while retaining existing drivers to deliver for clients and grow their businesses.”

Biden’s office further outlined a 30-day, 60-day and 90-day action plan.

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