It’s been a long and frustrating road for the trucking industry as it’s tried to address the ongoing driver shortage – but there are finally signs of change on the horizon.
On March 10, the reintroduction of the DRIVE-Safe Act in both the U.S. House and Senate was warmly welcomed throughout the industry.
NACD has been a strong advocate of these long-overdue measures for some time and hopes they can be implemented as soon as possible.
The COVID-19 crisis this past year has not only highlighted the vital importance of our supply chain but also firmly shone the spotlight on the severe shortage of drivers needed to transport products and goods around our nation.
Yet even with an ever-increasing demand for this kind of role and the mounting job losses because of coronavirus, the trucking workforce continues to diminish.
The driving pool is ageing and retiring without being adequately replenished. Despite everyone’s best efforts, we’re still not seeing enough young drivers entering the sector – partly because of the restrictions they face.
Although those under the age of 21 can legitimately hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL), allowing them to safely and legally transport shipments, current rules prohibit them from crossing state lines.
During a time when fresh faces are so desperately needed, this puts un-necessary obstacles in front of a huge resource of potential talent – often encouraging them to seek work in other sectors.
These young people coming out of high school simply aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve. Sadly, they’re missing out on a fantastic career choice that offers a decent salary, job security, and health and retirement benefits. And this simply has to change.
According to the American Trucking Associations, the trucking industry will need to hire around 1.1m new drivers to cope with demand over the next decade – equivalent to about 110,000/year.
The ongoing pandemic has heaped pressure on the supply chain, and we’ve seen many reports of product shortages, rail issues, shipping delays, and congestion at our ports in recent months.
Everyone recognizes the need to address the driver shortage and keep our industry moving.
Led by Senator Todd Young (R-IN) and Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN) and backed with bipartisan support in both chambers, the DRIVE-Safe Act will surely help to accelerate change.
If successfully passed, the bill would scrap these interstate restrictions and see those aged 18-21 enrolled in a comprehensive training program to promote safe and responsible driving. This will include at least 400 hours of on-duty driving time as well as an additional 240 hours with an experienced driver alongside them in the cab to supervise.
It will mean a much-needed injection of eager, young talent that will steer us on the road to recovery.
Right now, it seems the most logical way to get these measures passed through Congress is if they are included as part of the proposed $1.9 trillion infrastructure bill that’s still being negotiated.
We’re encouraged by this progress and hope the House will step up a gear and pass this important piece of legislation to get us moving in the right direction.
Find out more about the DRIVE-Safe Act at https://www.nacd.com/legislative/the-drive-safe-act-issue-page/.