The pandemic brought a new level of attention and appreciation for the vital role played
by commercial trucking in the United States. However, the industry has long been a
favorite focus of government and regulators. Even before the Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Administration was established as part of the Department of Transportation in
January of 2000, interstate commerce was subject to numerous regulations and laws.
The FMCSA has as its primary mission the reduction of fatalities and injuries caused by
commercial motor vehicles. It has used its position to address a wide range of
commercial trucking issues.
The Federal Trucking Action Plan
The Biden Administration pulled together a variety of concepts and programs in
conjunction with the passage of the recent Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to
create the Federal Trucking Action Plan. This plan, part of the Supply Chain Disruption
Task Force, has met with varying levels of success. Major aspects of this initiative were
several steps to address the commercial trucker workforce.
Citing the impact of COVID-19, outdated infrastructure, and an increased volume of
shipping (beyond the regular 72 percent of goods shipped), the plan was designed to
address what it labeled “workforce challenges.” In addition to those already mentioned,
the list of challenges included:
- An aging workforce
- Unpaid delays and long waiting times at ports, warehouses, and terminals
- Long hours on the road
- Reduced take-home pay due to a combination of these factors
The justifications for the plan also pointed out that due to these complex issues, many
drivers were only able to complete 6.5 of their potential 11 hours of driving every day.
This creates a gap of nearly 40 percent in the potential for shipping that goes
A “Next Generation” Workforce
The TAP stated its goal to work with the industry, drivers, and state and local
governments to prepare for the next generation of drivers. That includes creating trucker
jobs that are “good, safe, and stable.” At the core of this goal is the addition of more
affordable, effective, and high-quality training to allow debt-free paths to careers as
The plan also visualizes expanding the demographic mix of drivers to include more
women, formerly incarcerated individuals, service-disabled veterans, and younger drivers. TAP also contends that success in these areas will make the U.S. more
competitive for decades to come. This will be the result of providing millions of qualified
and motivated commercial truckers.
As part of immediate actions taken by TAP, efforts were made to make it easier to get
CDL permits at the state level while also addressing the many sources of expensive and
poor training that has existed for years. This step included providing $30 million to
states to help clear up backlogs of applications and CDL processing. The administration
states this resulted in more than 600,000 learner CDL permits issued in 2021, an
increase of 20 percent over the previous year.
Other initiatives included:
- A 90-day Challenge to add more Registered Apprentices. This program identifies employers who desire to add the Registered Apprenticeship program to their corporate efforts. With special funding and additional resources, the program is designed to step up the quality of training and the number of potential drivers in training.
- Focus on qualified veterans for potential recruits. DOT statistics indicated that at least 70,000 veterans left the service with certified training and skills for commercial trucking jobs. This included a series of actions to utilize existing and new paths for reaching veterans and their spouses to explain the opportunities in commercial trucking careers.
- The DOT- DOL Driving Good Jobs initiative. This ambitious effort is focused on the quality-of-work and quality-of-life issues that concern professional truckers. Another element of this focus is adding an increasing number of trucking trainees in the 18-to-20-year age group.
Impact of TAP
A lack of early response from potential new drivers created additional efforts and
incentives to identify candidates for the favored apprenticeship programs. While the
Teamsters initially supported TAP and its objectives, the field response has been that
the focus has been heavy on recruiting more drivers and not on making the career more
attractive. The efforts are still being pushed and promoted, but it will probably be 2024
before any earnest evaluation is available of the results.