WASHINGTON — Marking 60 days since announcing the Trucking Action Plan (TAP), the White House has shared an exclusive update on the initiative with The Trucker.
President Joe Biden said the plan is designed to help bolster the trucking industry at a time when more drivers are needed and the supply chain’s stress level is critical.
“With more than 70 percent of all goods in America shipped by truck, America’s trucking workforce plays a critical role in the U.S. supply chain and the broader economy,” a statement to The Trucker from Jennifer Molina, White House senior director of Coalitions Media, read.
“However, outdated infrastructure, the COVID-19 pandemic and a historic volume of goods moving through the nation’s economy have strained capacity across the supply chain, including in trucking.”
The White House said that while more work remains, the TAP “has made remarkable progress in the last 60 days.”
The Biden administration shared with The Trucker that more than 20 employers have so far signed up to participate in expanded registered apprenticeship programs, which are designed to help fast-track new drivers into big rigs.
“Partners like the American Trucking Associations, the North American Punjabi Trucking Association (and the) Minority Professional Truckers Association have stepped forward to partner with the administration to expand apprenticeships,” according to the White House.
Administration officials said they are working to “cut red tape so it’s easier for drivers to get commercial driver’s licenses. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced over $32 million in funding to help states upgrade their processing systems as well as technical assistance to speed up issuances.”
The White House also shared with The Trucker that the Veterans Service Organizations, which represents nearly 4 million military veterans, is currently discussing ways the administration and industry can attract, train, place and retain veterans in trucking jobs.
The departments of Labor, Transportation, Defense and Veterans Affairs, along with the Small Business Administration, have released a fact sheet to raise awareness about 16 different federal programs that can connect transitioning military personnel and veterans to careers in the trucking industry, according to the White House.
“These programs will boost efficiency in the industry, connecting firms to countless potential workers,” the White House statement read. “A highlight of these efforts is the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Registered Apprenticeship program.”
The administration also plans to focus on women in the trucking industry.
This week, Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg plans to sign the charter document officially launching the Women of Trucking Advisory Board.
As the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law established, this task force will help inform efforts to increase the number of women in trucking.
“Based on feedback received in recent listening sessions with leaders and advocates, the task force will provide recommendations to address the challenges facing current and prospective women, such as barriers to entry, on-the-job safety risks, workplace harassment, including sexual harassment, mentorship, quality training and opportunities for advancement,” according to the White House.
Additionally, the administration plans to sign a charter document to form a new task force to investigate predatory truck leasing arrangements.
The FMCSA, DOL and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) formed a Truck Leasing Task Force that will review leasing arrangements to identify actions that could make leases more equitable and transparent.
Finally, the White House shared with The Trucker that the administration plans to deliver a “comprehensive new action plan, informed by a series of DOL and DOT listening sessions, outlining any further administrative and regulatory actions the administration can take to support quality trucking jobs.”
Industry reaction to the plan has been mostly positive, though many truckers wish it had addressed the lack of safe truck parking across the nation.
“As one of the top five industry-rated challenges voiced by professional drivers in the recent ATRI (American Transportation Research Institute) study, and an issue that has been top 10 on company and truckers’ minds for years, it is more than disappointing that specific funds were not earmarked to meet this problem,” said Mark Walker, chairman and CEO of Missouri-based TransLand. “It’s unbelievable.”
American Trucking Associations (ATA) Executive Vice President of Advocacy Bill Sullivan praised the TAP, saying, “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.”
Shannon Newton, president of Arkansas Trucking Association, also lauded the plan.
“We thank the president and his administration for recognizing the important work of the men and women in the trucking industry,” she said. “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. 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), hasn’t been 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.”
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and raised in East Texas, John Worthen returned to his home state to attend college in 1998 and decided to make his life in The Natural State. Worthen is a 20-year veteran of the journalism industry and has covered just about every topic there is. He has a passion for writing and telling stories. He has worked as a beat reporter and bureau chief for a statewide newspaper and as managing editor of a regional newspaper in Arkansas. Additionally, Worthen has been a prolific freelance journalist for two decades, and has been published in several travel magazines and on travel websites.