Trucking industry struggling to hire drivers as demand increases
02:48 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The Biden administration will unveil its “Trucking Action Plan” on Thursday in an effort to address supply chain challenges that have plagued the White House for months.

The plan is the product of the administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, a group chaired by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. According to a fact sheet provided by the White House, the plan will tackle “longstanding workforce challenges in the trucking industry, including 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.”

Truckers move 71% of the US economy’s goods, per industry estimates, but the Covid pandemic saw a spike in labor shortages for the industry, with one trucking association CEO telling CNN the sector is short 80,000 drivers, a record high. If nothing is done, the latest figures put the industry on track for a shortage of 160,000 drivers by 2030, and the need for a million new drivers over the next 10 years, according to the American Trucking Associations.

Thursday’s plan will “focus on improving pathways to entering the industry and improving job quality once in the industry,” one senior administration official said Wednesday, taking steps to offer $30 million in federal funding to expedite issuance of commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), launch a 90-day challenge aimed at increasing trucking apprentices through the Department of Labor, increase outreach efforts to veterans through the VA, and establish a joint initiative between the Departments of Labor and Transportations to expand recruitment and advocate for employees.

The administration will kick off the action plan with a White House roundtable Thursday, where Buttigieg, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, and NEC Director Brian Deese will discuss issues facing the trucking industry.

“The meeting will offer an opportunity for business and labor leaders to discuss the challenges they are facing and how they are adapting and innovating to bring long needed improvements to their industry,” one official told reporters Thursday.

Still, the official acknowledged Thursday’s announcement won’t immediately solve the administration’s supply chain issues.

“It’s a profession – it’s a skilled profession – so bringing people into the profession is not something that is like flipping a switch. Truck drivers have to train, they have to work with a trainer for a while, they have to be mentored in order to be safe, reliable truck drivers. … So this is highlighting the need for us to view truck driving as a profession and treat it as such, both in the training and in the job quality initiatives, because there are no shortcuts.”