The ongoing driver shortage has prompted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to solicit the OMB on a proposal to fast track a controversial driver training program. The pandemic exacerbated longstanding workforce challenges in the trucking industry, including recruitment, high turnover rates, an aging workforce, long hours away from home, and time spent waiting–often unpaid–to load and unload at congested ports, warehouses, and distribution centers. The Truck Action plan is a three-year apprenticeship program to allow carriers to employ drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 for hauling freight across state lines. Current regulations require drivers to be 21 or older to operate a truck in interstate commerce. Drivers under 21 can haul within a state subject to state laws.
The Truck Action Plan is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, launched in June to address near-term supply chain bottlenecks as the economy rapidly reopened following the Administration’s historic vaccination and economic relief efforts. The Task Force is co-chaired by the Secretaries of Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture to lead a whole of government effort to address these disruptions. The Task Force has been convening stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions—large and small, public or private—that will help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints, in order to minimize the impacts on workers, consumers, and businesses, and bolster a strong economic recovery.
The most serious concern about the program is its' affect on public safety. An 18-year-old operating an 80,000-pound vehicle on our nation’s highways rings alarms within an insurance company’s risk assessment metrics. Another concern is the insurance cost to the carriers. The cost to insure a young, inexperienced driver is extremely prohibitive. Acknowledging that safety is the highest priority for all concerned, FMCSA will mandate Registered Apprenticeships to ensure rigorous training standards and pairing each young driver with an experienced mentor. DOL and DOT will host a series of national Apprenticeship Accelerator meetings to help more firms develop new programs and release a quick-start toolkit for apprenticeships in the trucking sector.
The logistics and transportation industry is weighing in with support for the Biden administration’s recently announced efforts to boost the truck driver workforce, but they say more solutions are needed to tackle the longstanding challenges that plague the industry. Specific concerns such as driver retention issues, increased liability exposure, Insurance costs and relief from some regulatory requirements are problematic. The program, while providing some relieve to the driver shortage, creates an undeniable increase in cost and potential liability to the employer. Naturally, the increased operating costs must be reflected in freight rates.
Trade Groups On Board
Bill Sullivan, executive vice president of advocacy for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), emphasized the need for more apprenticeships throughout the industry.
“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,” he said in a press statement. “Using apprenticeships will help any American pursue a career in this great industry for good wages and benefits in a safe manner without the significant debt many jobseekers can sometimes incur.
The Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA), which represents small businesses and professional truck drivers, homed in on the need for longer-term action and driver retention.
“There are some elements in the plan we support, including further analysis of driver compensation and unpaid detention time,” OOIDA President Tom Spencer said in a statement following the administration’s announcement. “However, the plan fails to address excessively high driver turnover rates. Attracting and training new drivers won’t solve the larger problem of retention. We need to create an environment where truckers can have long, safe and productive careers.”
Stay Safe Everyone.
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