WASHINGTON — The Biden administration was meeting with the trucking industry on Thursday as it looks to help add new drivers and address a key part of the U.S. supply chain crisis.
The White House says COVID-19 “exacerbated longstanding workforce challenges in the trucking industry, including high turnover rates, an aging workforce, long hours away from home, and time spent waiting.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will join National Economic Council Director Brian Deese in hosting a roundtable at the White House with leaders in the trucking industry, including business and labor leaders.
The Transportation and Labor Departments are launching a joint “Driving Good Jobs” initiative. The White House says it is “asking industry, labor, and all levels of government … to address these trucking workforce challenges and begin building a next-generation trucking workforce.”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will soon launch a pilot for drivers aged 18-21 as mandated under a new infrastructure law.
Teamsters President Jim Hoffa in a Dec. 1 Detroit News opinion piece argued there “is no shortage of experienced truckers. However, there is a problem with these drivers getting fair pay and treatment from their employers.”
He added “truckers are being taken for granted by big business even after all the work they did to keep America running during the most difficult days of COVID-19.”
The White House said the Transportation Department is providing $30 million to help states expedite issuance of commercial driver’s licenses. They are also accelerating the expansion of registered apprenticeship programs.
Last month, the Transportation Department projected freight tonnage will rise by 50% by 2050 to 28.7 billion tons. Trucks, which currently carry 65% of U.S. freight tonnage, are expected to remain the predominant freight carrier.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) said the industry in 2020 employed 3.36 million truck drivers. It estimated that this year the driver shortage will hit a high of just over 80,000 drivers.