As we continue to recover from pandemic backlogs, there is an increased pressure on our nation’s supply chain, especially ahead of the busy holiday season. Moving our nation’s goods to local communities has never been more important to Americans, and the trucking industry has been working hard to prevent any disruptions in deliveries to your home, grocery store, pharmacies and more.
However, our industry is currently faced with a major challenge – a growing shortage of professional truck drivers. This year, ATA estimates anticipated that the truck driver shortage would hit a record high of just over 80,000 drivers. These figures are based on the gap between the number of truck drivers on the road today and the optimal number of drivers based on freight demand.
Since the start of the pandemic, with increased demand for freight, pandemic-related challenges from early retirement, closed driving schools and DMVs, and an array of other pressures, the threat of the truck driver shortage and its impact on the supply chain continues to threaten our nation’s deliveries and economy.
Bipartisan legislation in Congress, the DRIVE Safe Act, which was included in the infrastructure package that is now law, will help address the industry’s growing shortage of professional truck drivers by expanding job opportunities for younger members of the trucking workforce, while also strengthening safety training and technology safeguards for select candidates looking to participate in interstate commerce early in their careers.
Passage of this bill helps create opportunities for younger Americans who are seeking a high-paying profession and career pathway without having to take on debt to pay for a four-year degree. This commonsense proposal will create a safety-centered process for identifying, training and empowering the safest, most responsible 18- to 20-year-olds to more fully participate in our industry.
A shortage of truck drivers is a problem for all of us. 80% of American communities depend on the trucking industry for the delivery of their goods – everything from the food in our grocery stores, to the medicine at our pharmacies. If trucking stopped delivering, our store shelves would be empty, and our economy would come to a halt.
The bipartisan infrastructure package is a win-win for our industry and nation. From investments in highway safety and the supply chain, to creating new career pathways into trucking, the new law provides a solid foundation for long-term economic growth while helping address the truck driver shortage and prevent supply chain disruptions. The industry will continue seeking ways to attract and retain new drivers to support the industry.
-Chris Spear, President and CEO, American Trucking Associations