On Thursday, the White House released a comprehensive plan to attract new workers into the trucking industry and to improve working conditions to ensure the existing truck drivers don’t leave their jobs.
The December 16 action plan released by the Biden-Harris Administration looks at challenges facing the trucking industry and outlines a series of steps to take place over the next 90 days that are intended to make trucking jobs more attractive to workers.
The White House highlighted some of the major workplace issues for truck drivers, including long detention times:
The pandemic exacerbated 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. According to one estimate, long-haul full-truckload drivers only spend an average of 6.5 hours per working day driving despite being allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours. That means about 40 percent of their capacity is not being used. Many truckers also bear the burden of gas, insurance, and maintenance costs, which reduces their take home pay, creating significant challenges in recruiting and retaining drivers with the right credentials and experience into today’s trucking jobs. At the same time, the industry reports historic demand for its services. Reflecting that demand, wages for employed drivers in all trucking segments have increased 7-12% in the last year alone, but employment in some segments is still below pre-pandemic levels.
The Biden Administration action plan outlines steps that officials will initiate immediately, within 30 days, within 60 days, and within 90 days to “to address these trucking workforce challenges and begin building a next generation trucking workforce.”
- Take steps to reduce barriers to drivers getting CDLs: DOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are supporting state departments of motor vehicles as they return to—or even exceed—pre-pandemic commercial driver’s license (CDL) issuance rates, which is helping bring more truck drivers into the field. FMCSA will provide over $30 million in funding to help states expedite CDLs. Today, FMCSA is sending all 50 states a toolkit detailing specific actions they can take to expedite licensing and will work hand-in-hand with states to address challenges they are facing. FMCSA will also begin closely tracking delays, identifying states that have challenges with issuing CDLs, and communicating with all 50 governors about ways they can reduce delays in issuing CDLs.
- Kick off a 90-day Challenge to accelerate the expansion of Registered Apprenticeships: This 90-day challenge is a national effort to recruit employers interested in developing new Registered Apprenticeship programs and expanding existing programs to help put more well-trained drivers on the road in good trucking jobs.
- Conduct veterans-focused outreach & recruitment: There are approximately 70,000 veterans who are likely to have certified trucking experience in the last five years. The DOL Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will work with Veterans Service Organizations, Military Service Organizations, unions, industry trucking associations, training providers, and private partners to enable transitioning service members and veterans to attain good jobs in the trucking industry. DOL and VA will work to ensure veterans’ driving experience is recognized for those seeking a CDL and will build on proven models, such as SkillBridge programs for transitioning service members.
- Launch joint DOT- DOL Driving Good Jobs initiative: Supporting drivers and ensuring that trucking jobs are good jobs is foundational for a strong, safe, and stable trucking workforce. DOT and DOL are announcing today the launch of the joint Driving Good Jobsinitiative, which marks a new partnership between the agencies that will include: hosting listening sessions that engage drivers, unions and worker centers, industry, and advocates; lifting up employers and best practices that support job quality and driver retention that can be scaled; working together to implement research and engagement efforts outlined in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including studying the issue of truck driver pay and unpaid detention time; identifying effective and safe strategies to get new entrants in the field from underrepresented communities, including women and young drivers between the ages of 18-20; setting up a task force to investigate predatory truck leasing arrangements; and identifying longer term actions, such as potential administrative or regulatory actions that support drivers and driver retention by improving the quality of trucking jobs.
Actions Within the Next 30 Days:
- DOL and DOT will kick off listening sessions with drivers, industry and labor leaders, and advocates to hear their perspectives, profile promising practices, and source scalable solutions to retention and job quality issues for truckers. The first events in this series are happening today in South Carolina with Secretary Buttigieg, Deputy Administrator Joshi, and representatives from DOL and at the White House co-chaired by Secretary Buttigieg, Secretary Walsh, and National Economic Council Director Deese.
- FMCSA will issue funding opportunities for states to streamline CDL processing and reduce testing delays.
- DOL, DOT, and intermediary partners will work closely with committed trucking employers to launch the first group of Apprenticeship Challenge programs.
- FMCSA and DOL will begin an in-depth study of driver compensation, as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to examine truck driver pay, including the time drivers spend waiting to pick up or drop off freight without getting paid.
- DOL’s VETS and the Department of Veteran Affairs will organize a meeting with Veterans Service Organizations and Military Service Organizations to discuss opportunities to employ veterans in the trucking industry, including leveraging Veteran Affairs’ education and training benefits.
Actions Within the Next 60 Days:
- Acknowledging that safety is the highest priority for truck drivers, FMCSA will launch a pilot for drivers ages 18-21 as mandated by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, incorporating 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.
- DOL VETS, DOL Employment and Training Administration, and DOT’s Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration will conduct a roundtable to discuss efforts to facilitate a CDL for transitioning service members and veterans. The meeting will include representatives from the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program as well as Veterans Affairs.
- In FY21, VETS initiated and implemented ENPP to more effectively assist transitioning service members with the establishment of career goals and to connect them with best-in-class employment partners to facilitate positive employment outcomes. ENPP is currently at 16 military installations. DOL will expand the Employment Navigator and Partnership Pilot (ENPP) program to now include the trucking industry.
Actions Within the Next 90 Days:
- The Department of Labor will announce the results of the 90-day Apprenticeship Challenge and announce new partnerships to continue to expand apprenticeships in the trucking industry.
- DOT and DOL will launch the task force dedicated to promoting the recruitment, inclusion, and advancement of women in trucking established in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This task force will be the first of many strategies to help build the pipeline and diversify the trucking workforce.
- DOT and DOL will launch the task force to investigate predatory truck leasing arrangements that dissuade drivers from entering or staying in the industry established in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
- DOT and DOL will deliver a comprehensive action plan, informed by its series of listening sessions, outlining any further administrative and regulatory actions the Administration can take to support quality trucking jobs.
The White House’s action plan is a product of the Biden Administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force launched in June 2021.