WASHINGTON — Mixed reaction is rolling in over the White House’s recent announcement about a plan to help the trucking industry.
Some in the world of big rigs applaud it.
Others hate it.
The Biden-Harris Administration’s Truck Action Plan includes four strategies to strengthen America’s trucking workforce.
The program will kick off a 90-day apprenticeship program for employers, expedite commercial driver licensing and identify states with CDL hurdles, as well as focus on recruiting, training and retaining drivers from underrepresented communities to jobs that are strong, safe and stable.
The announcement is welcomed by industry groups who have been working on solutions to the driver shortage for years. On the other hand, many drivers and owner-operators aren’t as enthusiastic.
American Trucking Associations (ATA) Executive Vice President of Advocacy Bill Sullivan said, “We are encouraged that the Biden Administration has not only recognized the importance of adding new and well-trained Americans to the trucking workforce, but has announced a path forward with what we believe will become a robust training opportunity for future commercial truck drivers.”
The registered apprenticeships for trucking will allow employers of all sizes and industry segments to provide debt-free paths to a trucking career with high-quality training. The Department of Labor’s Office (DOL) of Apprenticeship will be aggressively working with interested employers to build apprenticeship programs in as little as 48 hours.
As part of the effort to reduce barriers to drivers obtaining their CDLs, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced immediate funding of over $30 million to help states expedite CDL testing and issuance. Several states, including Arkansas, are experiencing significant testing delays from a backlog created by insufficient staffing, turnover and increased demand.
The ATA estimates the driver shortage to be 80,000 — an all-time high for the industry — and with expected freight growth, the shortage could surpass 160,000 in 2030.
The Truck Action Plan is part of the administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force that launched earlier this year to address tightening bottlenecks in the supply chain. The steps announced in the Trucking Action Plan include both short- and long-term solutions and timelines to begin taking action for the next 30 days, 60 days and 90 days as the country continues to economically recover from the pandemic.
“We thank the president and his administration for recognizing the important work of the men and women in the trucking industry. We appreciate any effort to support and expand access to quality driving jobs and address the pandemic-driven delays in obtaining a commercial driver’s license,” said Shannon Newton, president of Arkansas Trucking Association. “We welcome the opportunity to work together in sharing our industry with a new cohort of drivers.”
Todd Spencer, president of the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), wasn’t as enthusiastic.
“There are some elements in the Plan we support, including further analysis of driver compensation and unpaid detention time,” Spencer said. “However, the plan fails to address excessively high driver turnover rates. Attracting and training new drivers won’t solve the larger problem of retention.”
On The Trucker’s social media platform, reactions to the plan were mostly negative.
“They’re from the government and they’re here to help,” wrote Rock Bowman on Facebook. “Yeah, right. More like just another way to wash money into the pockets of the apparatchiks. It’s a highly descriptive word worth looking up.”
“How about safe parking,” wrote Trevor Kiecker. “A permit to carry in every state for safety reasons healthy food that won’t break the bank and some respect. How about letting us police our selfs and have the the power to do so. I mean I’ll sleep when I’m tired and drive when I can. Instead of this dam eld.”
“So a bunch of people that have never drove a truck are going to get together and make things better…,” wrote Dawn Doolittle. “Yup this will work out well!”
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.