Trucking plan addresses supply disruptions
Washington D.C. – In an effort to address supply chain disruptions, the Biden administration announced the Trucking Action Plan, a bipartisan bill aiming to reduce barriers of entry and incentivize existing commercial drivers to pursue careers in trucking.
According to a White House press release, “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law creates a pathway to address these challenges in the long-term. The administration is announcing a set of concrete actions to address the expansion of trucking. 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 Department of Transportation (DOT), trucks are responsible for carrying over 70 percent of goods in the U.S. In many rural communities, trucks are the only form of freight available.
Agriculture is one of dozens of industries affected by this shortage.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott (D-GA) noted, “The food supply chain was able to weather the pandemic-induced challenges, but the availability of truck drivers holds the key to whether or not there will be a food supply challenge or shortage.”
In a testimony on behalf of the American Trucking Association, Joe Samson noted, “The trucking industry is currently short 80,000 drivers.”
He warns that by 2030 and at current trends, the gap could grow to 160,000. Nearly one million new drivers will need to be trained and hired in the next decade to keep pace with increase consumer demand and an aging workforce.
One of the key components of the bill is reducing barriers of entry for drivers to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
“DOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are supporting state departments of motor vehicles as they return to – or even exceed – pre-pandemic CDL issuance rates, which is helping bring more truck drivers into the field,” the White House notes. “FMCSA will provide over $30 million in funding to help states expedite CDLs.”
The bill also lays out a 90-day challenge to accelerate the expansion of registered apprenticeships.
“This 90-day challenge is a national effort to recruit employers interested in developing new registered apprenticeship programs and expanding existing programs to help put more well-trained drivers on the road in good trucking jobs,” the White House notes.
Registered apprenticeships provide paid, on the job learning for young drivers. The bill plans to expand on this proven training strategy in an effort to ensure high-quality training for new drivers and help employers develop and retain a skilled and safe workforce. The Department of Labor (DOL) is investing $8 million in more national apprenticeship intermediaries who can help employers start registered apprenticeships in trucking and other supply chain industries.
The bill is also targeting veterans with relevant experience.
“The DOL Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will work with veterans service organizations, military service organizations, unions, industry trucking associations, training providers and private partners to enable transitioning service members and veterans to attain good jobs in the trucking industry,” the press release notes.
DOL and VA will work to ensure veterans’ driving experience is recognized for those seeking a CDL and will build on proven models, such as SkillBridge programs for transitioning service members.
In addition to recruiting new drivers, the bill builds on existing provisions providing flexibility for livestock haulers. Language from Sen. Deb Fischer’s (R-NE) Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety (HAULS) Act were included within the bipartisan infrastructure framework.
The HAULS Act had a number of supporters across the beef sector including American Farm Bureau, Livestock Marketing Association and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Inclusion of language from this bill will benefit the beef sector as a whole.
Livestock haulers are now granted a 150 air-miles radius from the origin and destination of their trip. This effectively allows livestock haulers to travel an additional 300 miles while exempt from the restrictive hours-of-service regulations.
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Committee Chairman Steve Hilker notes, “Livestock haulers cannot stop and unload their animals like drivers of furniture or steel – or wait on the side of the highway for their clocks to reset. We need this regulatory flexibility to be able to get these animals to their destination as safely and efficiently as possible.”
“Farmers and ranchers must be able to get their crops and livestock to market efficiently and safely,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau.
Callie Hanson is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.