A former NASA astronaut and current United States Senator for the state of Arizona has released a new campaign ad focusing on how he would fix labor issues within the trucking industry.

Democrat Senator Mark Kelly is up for re-election in November, and part of his pitch to his constituents involves fixing multiple issues within the trucking industry in order to reduce costs for consumers.

In a video that appears to have been filmed at a truck stop, Kelly argues that “government red tape” has contributed to a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers, which has in turn increased costs for consumers. He says cutting regulations will bring the supply chain back on track and “help our truckers and their families.”

The “driver shortage” narrative that Kelly mentions has been pushed by groups like the American Trucking Associations (ATA) for decades. Other groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) have long argued that “the real problem is high turnover and retention. Compensation has been falling for years and the conditions have not improved. Trucking needs to figure out how to keep drivers instead of burning them out.”

In February 2022, Kelly and Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis introduced the Licensing Individual Commercial Exam-takers Now Safely and Efficiently (LICENSE) Act.

The bill seeks to ease supply chain issues with by making permanent a few FMCSA waivers that were issued during the pandemic:

  • Allow state and third-party examiners previously authorized to administer the commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills test to also administer the CDL knowledge test without having to complete the training course.
  • Allow licensed drivers who are accompanying commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders to move from the front seat of a truck cab to its sleeper berth.
  • Allow states to administer driving skills tests to applicants from other states.

The bill was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation after it was introduced in February.

Other trucking industry changes that Kelly has supported include the Truck Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program for 18 to 21 year olds, more flexible Hours of Service rules, no increase to federal minimum insurance requirements for motor carriers, and increased DOT spending on expanding truck parking availability. 

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