The trucking industry has long faced an existential problem, a lack of truck drivers needed to move America’s freight. The American Trucking Associations estimates that more than 60,000 truck drivers are needed immediately, and by 2028 this number will balloon to 160,000. The result of which, when coupled with retirements and growth, is the industry will need to hire approximately 1.1M new drivers over the next decade, a very tall order by any measure. To add an exclamation point, the American Transportation Research Institute’s most recent report on top Industry Issues notes that driver shortage continues to be the industry’s number one concern. Exacerbating this are growing concerns that the recently implemented Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse and the soon to be implemented Entry-Level Driver Training rules, will make it difficult to entice new drivers into the industry.
The trucking industry is battling this problem on several fronts, from new vehicle technology to hiring bonuses and new driver training programs. Some have also been advocating to allow drivers younger than 21 to drive in interstate commerce. This solution has been gaining traction lately as FMCSA embarks on pilot programs to determine if proper training can mitigate concerns over whether drivers younger than 21 are safe enough to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Now, Congress is joining the debate with a proposal called the DRIVE-safe Act, introduced in the last two congresses, which would create an apprenticeship program that trains younger drivers to operate trucks equipped with selected safety technologies.
As a part of the deliberative process, 117 organizations representing all levels of the U.S. supply chain sent a letter to congressional leaders encouraging them to pass the DRIVE-safe Act.
During the recent negotiations of the Highway Bill on the Senate side, a compromise amendment was passed by the Commerce Committee representing much of what was in the DRIVE-safe Act. On the House side, there currently is no companion provision, meaning if nothing changes on the House side through its committee deliberations, resolution on this issue will need to be worked out when the two houses of Congress meet to negotiate final passage of the Bill.
Even with enhanced safety safeguards in place, there still is significant opposition on this issue, primarily coming from the Democrats in Congress, as well as the unions and safety advocates. However, there seems to be a willingness by some in Congress to support a compromise approach, and hopefully lawmakers will see the forest through the trees on this one. With the advent of new technology, monitoring and improved training techniques, there are many more tools today to help fleets and drivers to be safer than they ever have been. This problem is not going away and it’s time to adapt its thinking to explore more solutions. People also need to understand that it does not have to be an either/or option; we can have an environment where younger drivers can also be safe drivers. For industry leaders who believe the best path forward is finding ways for younger drivers to operate safely on America’s highways, it's time to double down and contact your congressional representative and express support for a compromise solution.
New driver recruiting opportunities shouldn’t end just because a driver applicant is lost to a competitor. The industry is too fast-paced – and too connected – for these leads to be gone forever. Imagine a world where all of your lead engagement data is available in one place and where you can easily communicate with viable leads with the click of a button. This type of outreach strategy is available with DriverReach, the modern driver recruiting management solution.
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