House bill offers recruiting and retention incentives, grants to truck drivers

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Updated Jan 27, 2023

U.S. Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-South Dakota) and Jim Costa (D-California) on Tuesday introduced the Safer Highways and Increased Performance for Interstate Trucking (SHIP IT) Act, a bill that seeks improvements in safety and shipping capacity for trucking companies; provides recruitment and retention incentives for drivers; and includes flexibility during times of emergencies or black swan events. 

The bi-partisan bill calls for a temporary $7,500 tax credit for eligible truck drivers who logged at least 1,900 hours of on-duty time and whose adjusted gross income for the taxable year does not exceed $135,000 jointly; $112,500 as head of household; or $90,000 individually. New drivers – defined as someone "who did not drive a commercial truck in the course of a trade or business during the preceding taxable year" – are eligible for a $10,000 tax credit. 

“Americans experienced a slew of freight disruptions during and after the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Johnson. “Last year we addressed ocean shipping reform, and it’s clear that updates are needed for other parts of the supply chain. The SHIP IT Act will bridge gaps, keep costs down for consumers, and make it easier for shippers to move products across the U.S.”

The SHIP IT Act also unlocks Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grants for tuition, fees and other costs of entry-level driver training provided by a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration-registered trainer. The grant could be extended to include other education and training costs, including the cost of course materials, supplies, technology, and fees for graduation, licensure or certification.

Citing disruptions in the trucking supply chain that drive costs and create uncertainty for consumers and producers, Costa said, "we need to recruit, train, and retain truck drivers to keep our supply chain moving, while also updating best practices to improve trucking to fit our modern economy. That is why we introduced this bipartisan legislation to strengthen the workforce and make it easier to move products across the country.”

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To improve parking, the bill authorizes grants to states and private agencies for projects that include new or expanded truck parking. It also proposes to streamline the CDL process, making it easier for states and third parties to administer CDL tests.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association lauded Reps. Johnson and Costa for addressing truck parking in the bill, but said it's off the mark when addressing driver retention.

“We appreciate Rep. Johnson’s longtime support of expanding truck parking capacity, and are glad that he and Rep. Costa recognize the importance of addressing the truck parking shortage to help keep drivers safe and improve supply chain performance," said Lewie Pugh, OOIDA Executive Vice President. "However, the bill misses the mark by failing to fix the underlying causes of the driver retention problem in trucking, including a lack of adequate compensation from carriers and a failure of shippers and carriers to value any of a trucker’s time. We look forward to working with Reps. Johnson and Costa to advance policies that support truckers and ultimately improve the movement of goods throughout the supply chain, instead of policies that subsidize big businesses like shippers and carriers and continue churning drivers in and out of trucking.”

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected]. 
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