WASHINGTON—President Biden highlighted the accomplishments his administration has made through its "Trucking Action Plan" at a White House event yesterday, reports CNN.
The Trucking Action Plan focuses on "building supply chain resilience through better quality trucking jobs," White House assistant press secretary Emilie Simons told reporters.
The plan, which was unveiled last year, aims to improve trucker retention and recruiting and in return, help the national supply chain. The plan includes reducing barriers to drivers getting commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), accelerating the expansion of Registered Apprenticeships, recruiting more veterans and launching joint DOT-DOL Driving Good Jobs initiative.
President Biden’s comments yesterday were delivered against the backdrop of historically high levels of inflation, and the administration is under heavy political pressure to ease supply chain issues and decrease inflation. However, the president focused on recent economic victories, including the unemployment rate hitting a new pandemic low.
Biden said that last year was the was the best on record for trucking job growth since 1994, with gains continuing into the first quarter of 2022, reports NBC News. The president promised to continue to expedite CDL issuances, and states have issued more than 876,000 CDLs since January 2021, according to a fact sheet released by the White House. Trucking employment now exceeds its pre-pandemic level by 35,000 and is higher than it was before it began to decline in 2019, says the White House.
Trucking moves 72% of goods in America, and the industry grew more than 20% last year due to a surge in demand for goods caused by the pandemic, according to the fact sheet.
Trucking is running low on drivers mostly because of high turnover and perceived low job quality. Trucking turnover averages about 90%, and drivers spend about 40% of their workday waiting to load and unload goods, and those hours that are typically unpaid. Drivers are also exempt from receiving overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
While the median pay is $47,130 per year, higher than the median for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, drivers typically take multiple-day trips, where the driver must spend nights away from home and sleep in the cap of the truck.
Many truckers are not directly employed and operate as independent small businesses, bearing the cost of leasing, gas, insurance and maintenance themselves. These financial constraints cause many to leave the profession. Trucking also draws on an older, heavily male workforce—the median age is four years higher than the overall workforce and almost 90% of the industry is men—which adds to its recruiting challenges.
(NACS Magazine shared how carriers are casting a wider net for applicants to fill truck driving jobs in “Women on the Road” in the October 2021 issue.)
In January, the administration launched a pilot apprenticeship program to allow younger truckers to drive across state lines while supervised by an experienced driver. NACS, along with multiple other industry stakeholders, sent a letter to FMSCA expressing concerns about requirements of the program that create unnecessary administrative burdens and may inhibit participation in the program.
The letter asks FMCSA to remove the requirement for employers to join the U.S. Department of Labor’s registered program and reduce the amount of monthly data employers must provide to FMCSA.
“Importantly, without these changes, there is a very real possibility that overall subscription to the program may be delayed or reduced due to the costs and burdens associated,” the stakeholders write in the letter.
Many employers may not want to create a registered apprenticeship program and may feel that it is unnecessary and will likely reduce participation, the NACS letter states.
“The requested data elements should be narrow, focused and clear so that participating employers are not burdened by the requested information,” stated the letter.