White House Releases Plan to Address Truck Driver Shortage

This week, the White House released an “action plan” for the Biden Administration to address the oft-discussed truck driver shortage and held a roundtable discussion with industry representatives on the issue.

(For an interesting take on just how severe said driver shortage is, see this op-ed from last week’s ETW.)

The “action plan” is a joint effort by the Department of Transportation and the Department of Labor, with some participation by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and coordination by the White House.

In terms of immediate action, the Labor Department is focusing on trying to get more people to want to be commercial truck drivers. This includes working with trucking companies on Registered Apprenticeship programs and, with Veterans Affairs, working with veterans organizations, employers and unions to try and get more of the estimated 70,000 veterans who are likely to have certified trucking experience in the last five years to enter this workforce.

Once those people decide they want to be truck drivers, DOT is working with states to get commercial drivers license applications processed more quickly, through outreach and FMCSA grant money.

Jointly, DOT and DOL have begun a “Driving Good Jobs Initiative,” which will include “hosting listening sessions that engage drivers, unions and worker centers, industry, and advocates; lifting up employers and best practices that support job quality and driver retention that can be scaled; working together to implement research and engagement efforts outlined in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including studying the issue of truck driver pay and unpaid detention time; identifying effective and safe strategies to get new entrants in the field from underrepresented communities, including women and young drivers between the ages of 18-20; setting up a task force to investigate predatory truck leasing arrangements; and identifying longer term actions, such as potential administrative or regulatory actions that support drivers and driver retention by improving the quality of trucking jobs.”

Also, one of the specific things that the infrastructure law orders DOT to do (which was opposed by trucking unions and some safety groups) is on the timetable for the next 60 days: “Acknowledging that safety is the highest priority for truck drivers, FMCSA will launch a pilot for drivers ages 18-21 as mandated by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, incorporating Registered Apprenticeships to ensure rigorous training standards and pairing each young driver with an experienced mentor.”

Beyond 90 days, DOT and DOL will launch two task forces (one to promote women in trucking and one to investigate predatory truck leasing arrangements), and “DOT and DOL will deliver a comprehensive action plan, informed by its series of listening sessions, outlining any further administrative and regulatory actions the Administration can take to support quality trucking jobs.”

According to the readout of the closed-door roundtable meeting, “Participants welcomed the Administration’s focus on developing a pipeline of well-trained drivers, noting the benefits this offers to driving retention and safety. Secretary Walsh announced nearly $10 million in funding the Department of Labor was devoting to registered apprenticeships, and dedicated resources to support veterans recruitment. Several participants spoke of the high return on investment they had seen from creating registered apprenticeships, and the speed at which the Labor Department had approved new programs for their industry in recent months. Several participants announced their commitment to use the new Registered Apprenticeship Accelerator, which can approve new programs in as few as 48 hours.”

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