Bill looks to recruit more drivers to a depleted trucking industry
A bipartisan bill in the U.S. House of Representatives aims to improve the nation’s supply chains by recruiting more drivers to the trucking industry. It’s called the Safer Highways and Increased Performance for Interstate Trucking (SHIP IT) Act and is sponsored by Reps. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., and Jim Costa, D-Calif.
The U.S. is short about 80,000 truck drivers despite widespread recent pay raises among fleets. The median age of a driver is also around 50 years old. Stakeholders in the industry say a lack of workers can drive up transportation costs and delay deliveries.
Matt Mika with the Shipper’s Coalition – which represents dozens of companies and trade associations in the food, beverage and manufacturing industry – said more young people need to know that trucking can be lucrative. The median annual salary for heavy and tractor-trailer drivers is just over $48,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but pay rates can get much higher.
“You don't always need to go to a four-year degree college to get a job,” he said. “This is an opportunity to go to a special school and maybe start something at age 18, 19, 20 or 21.”
However, Mika said trucking is currently hampered by inefficient, unnecessary commercial licensing systems and a lack of support for drivers. There is only one parking space for every 11 truckers nationwide, for instance, which leads to congestion.
The SHIP IT Act aims to solve some of these problems by modernizing the Commercial Driver’s License process and making it easier for workers to cross state lines and apply for grant or emergency funding. It would also invest in more parking and rest areas on highways, which proponents say could potentially attract more women and minority drivers to the industry.
The bill would also create tax incentives for new truckers, as well as fund grants to cover tuition and expenses for entry-level training programs.
“We need to be more proactive out there and help those farmers, ranchers, producers, shippers, builders – anybody that's moving goods throughout the U.S.,” Mika said.
Johnson and Costa also worked together to pass reforms for ocean ports in the House last year. The SHIP IT Act is currently in its committee phase.
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