Biden, flanked by 18-wheelers, touts trucking employment

Associated Press/Andrew Harnik

President Biden on Monday touted steps the administration has taken to boost employment in the trucking industry amid lingering supply chain disruptions, alongside 18-wheeler cabins parked outside the White House.

“I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the economy and the record-breaking economic comeback we’re experiencing because of a lot of you sitting out there in those chairs,” Biden said, addressing truck drivers at the event.

He said truck drivers are “carrying the nation literally on your back.” Two truck cabins were parked behind the president, and a complete 18-wheeler with a Stars and Stripes design was parked nearby.

“It’s no surprise so many drivers left their jobs. The workforce is getting older, not that I am, but they are. I used to drive a truck, it’s a long story. Anyway … I thought I was going to get to drive one of these suckers today,” he said, pointing behind him.

The event was focused on the Trucking Action Plan, which is part of the administration’s efforts to tackle lingering supply chain disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You all quit, everything comes to a halt. Think about it, I’m not joking. Think about it — come to a literal halt,” Biden said to truckers.

“During the pandemic, a lot of Americans have been introduced to a term you all know well and Pete used it. Supply chains, a simple term. Supply chain’s a journey, a journey of a product to get to a customer’s doorstep,” he added, referring to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Biden noted that demand for home improvements, televisions, and automobiles went up during the pandemic and the supply chain was interrupted, which meant higher prices and long delays.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) were at the event at the White House, as well as the new president of the Teamsters, Sean O’Brien.

Biden noted that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes investments for roads and bridges, “and that means a bright future for American trucking.”

“This country will be counting on you more than it ever has. So, you should be able to count on us to keep investing in you and your families. That’s exactly what we’re going to do,” he added.

The White House announced on Monday that 2021 was the best year for trucking employment growth since 1994, noting that when Biden took office, there were 30,000 fewer trucking jobs than there had been in February 2020. Trucking employment now exceeds its pre-pandemic level by 35,000 workers.

Buttigieg spoke about the recruitment and retention issues in trucking and said the trucking industry estimates there remains a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers, while the Transportation Department estimates that 300,000 truckers leave the career every year.

“We must do more and do better to recruit more people into the job and to support them so they choose to stay in the job. And, that’s more than saying thank you, it is concrete, specific actions to help our trucking workforce thrive in this career. To make sure that trucking jobs are as high quality, as safe, and as well paid as they ought to be,” Buttigieg said.

Commercial driver’s license issuances more than doubled in January and February 2022, compared to the same time last, which the White House attributes to the Transportation Department cutting red tape for states to issue licenses.

Additionally, more than 100 employers — including Domino’s Pizza, Frito-Lay, Pepsi, Albertsons, and UPS — launched registered apprenticeship programs in the last 90 days and Biden noted that the Department of Labor cut the amount of time it takes to a launch that kind of program.

“What that all adds up to is a strong foundation for the work ahead. A pipeline of hardworking men and women from all backgrounds, highly trained and highly motivated to get behind the wheel. Including a whole lot of veterans thanks to the Veterans Trucking Initiative, known as Task Force Movement lead by Patrick Murphy,” Biden said.

Former Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) is at the helm of the initiative that focuses on connecting veterans to trucking careers.

“I’d say parenthetically, if you can handle a tank, if you can handle an armored personnel carrier, you sure in hell can handle one of these suckers,” the president said, pointing to the trucks behind him.

Murphy said, in remarks before the president, that the task force is “about opportunity, it’s about the future of America, it’s about making sure America gets back to work.”

“Today is a proud moment but today is just the beginning,” he added. “The numbers will speak for themselves, but it is that burden, that sacred burden for those of us who have been overseas to make sure we give back and make it better for the next generation.”

Tags Biden Joe Biden Joe Biden Patrick Murphy Pete Buttigieg Pete Buttigieg trucking employment trucking industry

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