WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced new details Thursday about the Biden-Harris Trucking Action Plan.
The plan is designed to help bolster what many consider one of the most critical industries in the nation.
President Joe Biden has said that truckers are facing unprecedented challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the related supply chain crunch that has created bottlenecks worldwide.
Boiled down, the plan will: Expand registered apprenticeship programs; create the Women in Trucking Advisory Board; dole out $32 million to states to improve the commercial driver’s licensing process; create a new task force dedicated to investigating predatory truck leasing arrangements; begin two studies to explore truck driver pay and unpaid detention time; and begin the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot, an under-21 pilot program for truck drivers mandated in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“In some parts of the trucking industry, 90% of drivers turn over each year,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “Making sure truck drivers are paid and treated fairly is the right thing to do, and it will help with both recruiting new drivers and keeping experienced drivers on the job.”
Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh added: “In the 30 days since the administration’s Driving Good Jobs Initiative was launched, there is new energy and enthusiasm behind the effort to ensure jobs in the trucking industry are good, safe and sustainable jobs attractive to new generation of truck drivers who will remain in the industry over the long term. Industry has to and is stepping up to partner and in the last month, we are already working with more than 100 employers to expand registered apprenticeships for drivers, an important step to making this shift a reality.”
Registered Apprenticeship Accelerator
The DOL and DOT have launched the 90 Day Trucking Apprenticeship Challenge to accelerate the expansion of registered trucking apprenticeships. The DOT says such apprenticeships are “a proven workforce strategy for helping employers and organized labor partners develop and retain a skilled workforce.”
Since the launch of the challenge 30 days ago, more than 100 employers and industry partners have pledged to expand registered apprenticeships.
For example, more than 20 employers are already close to launching brand new apprenticeships, which will put thousands of new skilled and safe drivers on the road in trucking jobs trained using the “earn while you learn” registered apprenticeship model, according to the DOT.
Over the next 60 days, the DOL and industry partners will continue to host informational meetings and work with employers, industry groups and labor organizations to further support the development of registered apprenticeships across the industry.
Women of Trucking Advisory Board
The advisory board is designed to help increase the number of women in trucking. According to the DOT, the board will review and report on the current challenges facing female drivers and those interested in joining the profession, such as barriers to entry, on-the-job safety risks, mentorship, quality training and opportunities for advancement.
USDOT’s Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration (FMSCA) will begin soliciting nominations for the advisory board “to ensure that the composition of the board represents a cross section of women in the trucking industry,” according to the DOT.
This week, the White House is convening a virtual roundtable to gather input on how to build a more inclusive and equitable workplace for women in the trucking industry.
Truck Leasing Task Force
Along with the FMCSA, the DOL and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will form a Truck Leasing Task Force that will review leasing arrangements to identify actions that could make leases more equitable and transparent.
The task force will be focused on reviewing and reporting on concerns such as: common truck leasing arrangements, with a specific focus on inequitable terms and transparency; truck leasing arrangements for ports that involve a requirement for trucks to convert to zero emissions; loans and other arrangements between incoming driver trainees and training schools and/or trucking companies to understand the extent to which these result in outsized and unanticipated debt for incoming drivers; and looking into predatory truck leasing arrangements with DOL and in coordination with the CFPB.
Detention Time Study
FMCSA will begin a study on driver detention time and its impact on safety and compensation.
Unlike past studies on the impact of driver detention time, this study will use a cross section of electronic logging device data to provide “a much more detailed understanding of wait times for drivers across jurisdictions and industry sectors,” according to the DOT.
Data used will be aggregated and anonymized to ensure driver privacy.
In addition to quantifying detention time, the study will also review how detention time influences the likelihood of a crash or an hours-of-service violation.
FMCSA has begun partnering with the Transportation Research Board to conduct a study of the impacts of various methods of driver compensation on safety and driver retention.
Specifically, the study will review the safety effect of payments made to truck drivers per load or per mile versus payments per hour. The study will also review the amount of time a truck driver spends away from home, driving and detained to determine true working hours, and then determine true hourly wages.
Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot
FMCSA will soon begin screening motor carriers to determine their eligibility to participate in the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot (SDAP), which will allow qualified drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 to pilot 18-wheelers across state lines for the first time.
In the coming days, FMCSA will publish a Federal Register Notice that outlines the program safety requirements, including a requirement that participants meet the qualification standards of the DOL’s registered apprenticeship program.
“FMCSA will also conduct outreach to motor carriers with excellent safety records inviting their participation in the program,” the DOT stated.
Funding to States for CDL Licensing
“DOT and FMCSA are supporting state departments of motor vehicles as they return to — or even exceed — pre-pandemic commercial driver’s license (CDL) issuance rates, which is helping bring more truck drivers into the field,” according to the DOT.
As part of the Trucking Action Plan 30-day commitments, FMCSA announced more than $30 million in funding available to help states expedite CDLs.
The FMCSA has also sent all 50 states a toolkit detailing specific actions they can take to expedite licensing and will work hand-in-hand with states to address challenges they are facing.
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.