Special Coverage



Buttigieg Promotes Trucking’s Economic Contributions

Pete Buttigieg at MCE 2022
Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks to attendees of American Trucking Associations' Management Conference & Exhibition. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

SAN DIEGO — The nation’s top transportation officer celebrated the contributions of the millions of commercial drivers who are engaged in advancing the country’s economy during an appearance at American Trucking Associations’ 2022 Management Conference & Exhibition Oct. 25.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg touted the role of the women and men who work as truckers, and pledged to improve their ability to perform their jobs. The secretary insisted the Biden administration is committed to ensuring the commercial transportation workforce remains central to the viability of freight corridors.

“I’m here with a purpose,” Buttigieg told a forum of several thousand in attendance for his remarks. “And the purpose is to express our administration’s understanding that trucking is absolutely vital to the supply chains that are the backbone of the American economy.”

During his address, the secretary wore an “I ❤️ Trucks” pin on his lapel. Stakeholders in the audience representing various aspects of the industry applauded Buttigieg’s message.

Implementing provisions in the $1 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which President Joe Biden signed last November, has potential for enhancing roadways used by truckers, Buttigieg argued.

The IIJA is dedicating billions of dollars for infrastructure projects, as well as advancing recruitment and retention programs designed to respond to the industry’s driver shortage. “We are looking at a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen this industry,” Buttigieg said, referring to the infrastructure law. “Supporting trucking is not just a priority for me, it’s at the heart of two central priorities for President Biden: Addressing supply chain disruptions so we can lower costs to families – a vital part of the fight against inflation — and insisting that workers get the pay and the respect that they deserve.”

Specific to the workforce, a Women of Trucking Advisory Board, which the IIJA funded, is scheduled to host its initial meeting next month. The board is tasked with paving the way for increasing the number of women in trucking jobs. Earlier in the day, ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello announced the industry is now short approximately 78,000 drivers, down slightly from last year’s estimate of 80,000.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg sports an "I ❤️ Trucks" button while on stage at MCE. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

The secretary also emphasized U.S. Department of Transportation efforts aimed at expanding access to parking for the trucking workforce. USDOT recently awarded freight-centric grants to expand such facilities in Florida and Tennessee. Nearly $40 million for the expansion projects was awarded to agencies in those states. The grants were enhanced by the additional funding secured in the IIJA.

For years stakeholders have sounded the alarm about a lack of parking for the trucking workforce. In its 2022 “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry” report, the American Transportation Research Institute ranked truck parking concerns third. The research firm provides an annual chronicle of industry affairs.

“We know what a central issue this is,” the secretary told the MCE audience about truck parking. “It’s not just a matter of convenience, it’s a matter of safety; safety for drivers and for everybody else.”

Buttigieg also warned against complacency when it comes to roadway fatalities. “Because we all grew up in a country where there’s just tons of roadway deaths, we’re used to it. But when you get used to something there becomes the danger of acceptance,” he said.

He encouraged the MCE crowd to review the department’s National Roadway Safety Strategy. Unveiled at the start of the year, the strategic document proposes a best-practices roadmap for improving freight and passenger mobility. An aspect of it pertains to the “Safe System Approach,” which “reinforces multiple layers of protection to both prevent crashes from happening in the first place, and minimize the harm caused to those involved when crashes do occur,” according to USDOT.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info: