Combatting Trucking’s Workforce Shortage Requires
Expanding the Driver Pool While Expediting the CDL Application Process
Trucking’s driver shortage already exceeds 50,000 drivers. However, the trucking industry’s workforce shortage is not confined to drivers alone. Trucking companies also require dispatchers and back office staff. Trained mechanics are also in short supply. Tank truck operations face further critical shortages of registered inspectors and design-certified engineers who can inspect and repair cargo tank truck trailers.
Due to the dangerous cargoes that we carry, drivers, inspectors, and other safety-critical employees in the tank truck sector must be the best of the best. Tank carriers must hire the most experienced truck drivers with the best safety records, especially in hazardous materials operations. Expanding employment opportunities in the trucking industry as a whole will grow the pool of tank truck applicants, and improve safety across all sectors in the trucking industry.
Expanding Employment Opportunities
To grow the industry’s workforce, a wide mix of solutions is required. First, we need programs that allow current driver trainees to speedily obtain commercial driver’s licenses. We can safely reduce the minimum CDL testing age by adopting common sense legislation like the Drive Safe Act (H.R. 1374/S. 569), which allows 18 to 20 year-olds to engage in interstate commerce under a new graduated CDL program. FMCSA’s pilot program to allow 18-20-year-olds with military drivers operate in interstate commerce mandated by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act is a step in the right direction. FMCSA should consider expanding this pilot project to include all 18 to 20 year-old drivers. By their 21st birthday, an individual can be well on their way towards being an electrician or a plumber. That same individual would only be eligible to start their first day at truck driving school.
More Efficient CDL Testing and Issuance Processes
Antiquated domiciliary regulations require a driver that learned to drive a truck outside their home state to return home before taking the driving skills portion of their CDL exam. This is an obstacle to driver training schools educating prospective applicants outside of their domiciled state. As nothing about safely operating a truck changes when a driver crosses a state line. Drivers that demonstrate the ability to safely operate a commercial truck should be allowed to obtain a CDL through electronic interchange between state licensing agencies. States with long wait times for skills tests should be encouraged to adopt third-party CDL testing programs, in line with a 2015 GAO study’s recommendations.
Better Training Opportunities
By speeding and easing the CDL licensing process, individuals can join the trucking industry quickly while maintaining today’s existing high safety standards. Expanding Labor Department- administered job education programs provide more opportunities to work as drivers, tank inspectors, and mechanics. Finally, by coupling expanded driving opportunities for 18-20 year- old’s with common sense graduated licensing requirements, we can expand the labor pool and provide good, long-lasting, and well-paying trucking careers to a new generation.