Biden administration unveils efforts to add to trucking workforce

The Biden administration on Thursday announced a multi-pronged effort to improve worker recruitment and retention in the trucking industry, citing it as a way to improve the national supply chain for the long-term.

The Department of Transportation and the Department of Labor are partnering on a 90-day initiative to engage with industry leaders, drivers and other stakeholders to improve trucker pay, attract new talent to the industry and better retaining drivers.

Transportation Secretary Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks Airlines suspend US flights in response to 5G deployment AT&T, Verizon to delay 5G rollout near certain airports MORE and Labor Secretary Marty WalshMarty WalshOn The Money — Labor chief touts efforts to promote job growth The Hill interview: Biden Labor chief touts back-to-work push A year into Biden's presidency, we're only burying more overdose victims MORE will join National Economic Council Brian DeeseBrian DeeseBiden seeks to save what he can from Build Back Better Momentum builds to prohibit lawmakers from trading stocks Hillicon Valley — Airlines issue warning about 5G service MORE at the White House for a roundtable with industry leaders on Thursday to discuss the "Driving Good Jobs" initiative and others being unveiled.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing a set of concrete actions to address the expansion of trucking," the White House said in a fact sheet outlining the new steps. "These actions will support the ongoing economic recovery and lay the foundation for a next generation trucking workforce that will strengthen U.S. competitiveness and support millions of good driving jobs for years to come."

Senior administration officials highlighted the trucking industry as a critical cog in moving the nation's goods at a time when the supply chains are under stress from the coronavirus pandemic. More than 70 percent of the country's freight is transported by trucks, they said.

"Even before the pandemic, the industry was facing trouble recruiting and retaining a next generation workforce," a senior administration official said.

The administration will outline efforts to connect more veterans with trucking jobs upon their return to the civilian workforce, with one official noting thousands have military trucking experience. 

Another initiative will focus on registered apprenticeship programs where drivers can get paid while they learn on the job. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Another step being announced Thursday focuses on making it easier for drivers to get a commercial driver's license. As part of that initiative, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will provide more than $30 million to help states expedite the issuance of commercial driver's licenses to those qualified.

"There are some elements in the plan we support, including further analysis of driver compensation and unpaid detention time," the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said in a statement regarding the administration's plans.

"However, the plan fails to address excessively high driver turnover rates. Attracting and training new drivers won’t solve the larger problem of retention. We need to create an environment where truckers can have long, safe and productive careers."

The trucking action plan is the latest effort from the Biden administration to try and alleviate bottlenecks in the supply chain. Previous initiatives have focused on improving the flow of goods at ports.

Biden last month met with executives from major retailers and expressed confidence shelves would be stocked with goods for the holiday season.

Updated at 1:02 p.m.