The Department of Transportation is pushing new measures to recruit more truck drivers. According to the American Trucking Associations, the U.S. needs another 80,000 truckers.
About 72% of goods transported in the U.S. are carried by truckers. But with high turnover rates and dwindling driver supply, the industry has reached a breaking point.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CBS News’ Errol Barnett that he has made recruiting drivers, keeping trucks on the roads, and making sure shelves are stocked top priorities.
“Oh, I’m very concerned about this, and it reflects the fact that as long as we go through phase after phase of this pandemic, we’re seeing disruptions in supply,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg spoke to CBS News as his agency announced new efforts to bolster the number of truckers as part of the Biden administration’s pledge to fix the supply chain.
The Department of Transportation announced Thursday that it will fund over $32 million for states to improve the commercial driving license process.
Over 100 companies are committing to expand trucking apprenticeship programs and a task force to investigate predatory truck leasing.
“We’ve got to recruit more people into the job and we’ve got to keep them there,” Buttigieg said.
Drivers have been fleeing in droves—with yearly turnover hitting 90% in parts of the trucking industry.
Mickey Weaver’s company connects trucking applicants with employers. Not only are there too few job seekers, but he also said, once they see how much time in the truck is unpaid, many quit.
“I seen a guy just this morning. He’d been sitting up for three to four hours, just sitting there, just waiting to get his truck loaded. And he’s not making any money,” Weaver said.
Patrick Penfield, a professor of supply chain practice at Syracuse University, said he believes better pay structures would fix backlogs.
“But until you do that, these poor truckers are kind of at the mercy of these ports in these other destinations where they have to wait,” he said.
Buttigieg said that’s one idea they are studying.
“We need to look at these compensation issues if we really want to solve long-term challenges in trucking in the U.S,” said Buttigieg.
The administration’s new effort includes two studies of detention time — when truckers are not being paid but are still on the job. Because they are only paid by the mile, it pressures them to drive extra-long distances, to the point of exhaustion.
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