White House Unveils Plan to Recruit Truck Drivers
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The Biden administration is launching a multifaceted program in partnership with industry that aims to expand recruiting efforts in trucking through various efforts, and elevate the appeal of what one senior administration official described as “well-paying, solid careers.”
The Biden-Harris Trucking Action Plan emphasizes, among other things, apprenticeship programs like one that was included in the $1 trillion infrastructure bill approved by Congress in November, as well as enhanced efforts to recruit former members of the military for trucking careers.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh set a Dec. 16 White House meeting with transportation stakeholders to discuss specifics of the plan.
Pete Buttigieg (left) and Marty Walsh at a May infrastructure event touring the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C. (Al Drago/Bloomberg News)
“It’s clear we need more truckers to move the historic volume of goods moving through our economy,” one official said. “Growing our trucking workforce will require investments in training, safety, and job quality to improve recruitment and retention and productivity. Our trucking action plan demonstrates our commitment to forging partnerships between labor, industry and others.”
American Trucking Associations Executive Vice President of Advocacy Bill Sullivan applauded the plan and said the association looks forward to working with the administration.
“We are encouraged that the Biden Administration has not only recognized the importance of adding new and well-trained Americans to the trucking workforce, but has announced a path forward with what we believe will become a robust training opportunity for future commercial truck drivers,” he said.
“Using apprenticeships will help any American pursue a career in this great industry for good wages and benefits in a safe manner without the significant debt many jobseekers can sometimes incur.”
The White House said Dec. 16 that EVO Trucking, D.M. Bowman, Yellow Corporation, Florida Rock and Tank, Total Transportation and CRST are committing to launch, expand, and work with the administration on "Registered Apprenticeships."
Over the past year, I've heard from people across the trucking industry expressing concern about labor capacity and its effect on our supply chain.
Today at @whitehouse we announced a plan to recruit more drivers and help them to thrive in this career — Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) December 16, 2021
A key emphasis in the plan is encouraging veterans to consider trucking as a post-military career.
“Every year, roughly 200,000 service members transition to civilian life, and over the last five years, 70,000 veterans left the service with military trucking experience,” one official said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to do right by our veterans and strengthen the trucking workforce at the same time to ensure there are seamless paths to these opportunities for our veterans. The trucking industry has already taken really important steps to connect veterans to good jobs, but there is certainly more we can do.”
As part of the initiative, the Department of Labor, through its Veterans’ Employment and Training Service program, will work with the private sector to encourage veterans to consider trucking industry positions once they leave military service.
The plan also calls for standardization of rules across states to help veterans obtain commercial driver licenses and receive credit for their military experience.
Truck drivers are essential to our supply chain and economy.
Today, @SecretaryPete and I are meeting with employers & labor leaders in the trucking industry to discuss @POTUS' Trucking Action Plan that will support and expand opportunities for workers.https://t.co/TyJxueuL5Z — Secretary Marty Walsh (@SecMartyWalsh) December 16, 2021
“We are working hard with states to streamline the CDL process to reduce the delay time it takes from taking your test and getting your license,” another senior administration official said. “We’re providing states with toolkits, strategies they can use to achieve those important results. We’re also, before the end of the year, going to provide grant funding opportunities to states so they can improve IT infrastructure that will also improve the licensing process.”
The program also aims to dramatically increase the number of apprenticeship programs tailored toward training 18-, 19- and 20-year-old drivers.
Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included language from the DRIVE Safe Act, which creates a training program to permit drivers under the age of 21 to obtain CDLs and participate in interstate commerce, something that previously was prohibited by law. Participants would undergo an extensive training and mentoring program before driving alone.
While that program has a rolling enrollment of 3,000 participants, an administration official said apprenticeship programs can help bring more entrants into trucking.
Host Mike Freeze talks to the 2021 Transport Topics Trucking's Frontline Heroes, Gene Woolsey and Cully Frisard. Hear a snippet above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.
“Apprenticeships are already the gold standard for workforce training in a number of industries, because apprentices earn while they learn, instead of just having to pay or take out debt for a training course,” one senior administration official said. “They gain real experience. Something that we have seen in the trucking industry that is critical for the hiring and talent pipeline is not just the credentials in a commercial driver license, but actual driving experience as jobs. Through an apprenticeship, a pool of new drivers will come out connected to a good job and a career.”
The official said there currently are at least 10,000 apprenticeships in trucking. The administration is announcing a 90-day apprenticeship challenge to encourage motor carriers to bring on apprentice drivers while either obtaining their CDL or undergoing training.
“Any employer that’s willing to step up and be a part of a registered partnership, we can help them launch a new program within 48 hours,” the official said. “It’s an incredible, expedited process to get a quality apprenticeship program in place.”
Earlier this year, American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello said that the trucking industry immediately needs at least 80,000 drivers to keep up with the surging volume of freight, retirements, and drivers who have decided to leave and pursue other careers.
One official called the program “the ultimate public-private partnership.”
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