A group of more than 60 lawmakers from both political parties is calling for trucking-school grants from the Labor Department, but the OOIDA says this is an investment that ‘simply won’t pay off.’

The group of lawmakers submitted a letter to the Department of Labor Secretary, Marty Walsh, on November 17th urging Walsh to prioritize DOL Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grants, specifically for applicants looking to become truck drivers. However, Todd Spencer, President of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, says that the plan is nothing more than “corporate welfare,” and will not bring about the changes needed in the trucking industry.  

“What they’re proposing here is using tax dollars to provide training to people that realistically will not pursue this as a career. It will be something that they will try, and many will burn out quick,” Spencer said in a MarketWatch interview.

“If you’re going to use tax dollars — somebody else’s money — to make an investment in somebody, you want it to be an investment that pays off long term, and this simply won’t. To use words others might, this is little more than corporate welfare,” Spencer continued, reiterating the OOIDA’s recent point that there is not actually a shortage of those qualified to drive trucks, only a shortage of those who are actually willing to. 

“When they say there’s a shortage, you have to ignore basic math. Every year, states license over 400,000 people to drive big trucks. So whether they say there’s a shortage of 60,000 or 80,000 or whatever, over 400,000 is a lot of people. Where do they all go? Most clearly don’t stick in this occupation that they just got licensed for,” Spencer said. 

And Spencer isn’t the only one acknowledging that the industry needs improvement; in addition to the OOIDA’s recently released study showing that as much as 30% of a trucker’s time is spent simply waiting around, an expert from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told Congress on Wednesday that truck drivers are “seriously underutilized” and that as much as 40% of America’s current trucking capacity goes unused each day due to “our conventions for scheduling and processing the pickup and delivery appointments.”

“The literal interpretation for a trucker is that 40% of the work I do, I’m not getting paid for, and no one should be happy about that,” Spencer said. 

“Anybody that’s willing to work 70 or 80 hours a week can make more money, spend less out of pocket, and sleep at home every night working in fast food…. It’s not like we need to tap into people at a younger age. What needs to happen is those companies that talk about having a driver shortage need to change the way they operate to make those jobs attractive to more people,” he continued.

“The reality is, if the job that you’re offering sucks, is the solution really to go find more suckers, or should you improve the job so people will come and stay?” 

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