In a press conference on the White House lawn Monday afternoon, President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, among others, touted the administration’s efforts to expand and improve jobs in the trucking industry through its Trucking Action Plan.
“This fits two central priorities that the president has laid out: addressing supply chain disruptions to lower costs for families, and getting workers the pay and the respect that they deserve,” Buttigieg said during the event. He went on to add that more needs to be done to recruit more people to the industry and to support truck drivers on the job to keep them in the industry.
Buttigieg outlined several things the Trucking Action Plan is doing to bring more people into the industry and improve job quality, including the Departments of Transportation and Labor teaming up to expand the number of Registered Apprenticeship programs; investigating truck leasing agreements; working on truck driver pay, including detention pay; making it easier for military veterans to transition to trucking; and improving infrastructure.
“One trucker told me, 'infrastructure is our workplace,' and now we are enhancing that workplace thanks to unprecedented funding through the President’s infrastructure law,” Buttigieg added. “And, yes, that includes working with states to use that funding to build more safe truck parking, because we know that is such a central issue for truckers today.”
The Administration also mentioned its commitment to working with veterans to bring them to trucking through the new Task Force Movement, chaired by former Pennsylvania Congressman and Iraq war veteran Patrick Murphy.
“If you can handle a tank; if you can handle an armored personnel carrier, you sure as hell can handle one of these suckers,” President Biden said, referencing the trucks parked behind him at Monday’s event.
During his speech, Biden noted that since 1978, driver pay has declined almost 30% when accounting for inflation. “In this iconic American industry, it’s getting harder and harder to raise a family with dignity and pride. … It’s no surprise so many drivers left the job,” he added.
Despite the challenges, Biden said 2021 was the best year for trucking employment since 1994 with 35,000 more trucking jobs now than before the pandemic. Additionally, so far in 2022, CDLs are being issued at double the rate as a year ago, with 120,000 issued in January in February, Biden noted.
He also touted the efforts of DOT and DOL to cut red tape around launching a Registered Apprenticeship program.
“What that all adds up to is a strong foundation for the work ahead,” Biden said. “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 led by Patrick Murphy.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association applauded the Administration for a number of issues it addressed at the event but said there’s still more work that needs to be done.
“The Biden Trucking Action Plan remains a mixed bag of policies intended to improve jobs and employment opportunities within the industry,” OOIDA said in a statement. “We applaud the Administration for adding truck parking to the plan and agree that the lack of parking across the country is about more than just inconvenience. OOIDA is also pleased that DOT, along with other federal agencies, has started gathering information on critical issues like detention time and driver compensation.”
The group added, however, that drivers are “waiting on meaningful measures that will help address these problems.
“Today’s update notes significant progress on establishing apprenticeship programs and plenty of funding to help states expedite CDLs, but we have yet to really see any substantive actions that can help keep new or current drivers in the industry long-term," OOIDA said.
The American Trucking Associations, which became a Registered Apprenticeship sponsor last month, thanked DOT and DOL for their work in making the process to become a registered apprenticeship easier.
“Recognizing our dedication to training and safety, the Departments of Labor and Transportation have worked quickly and efficiently in approving ATA as a registered apprenticeship sponsor," said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. "This long-sought designation provides our member companies valuable new tools and resources to help recruit and train the next generation of trucking talent."
The Teamsters also lauded the Administration for its efforts, particularly with Registered Apprenticeships. In his speech, Biden noted that in the last 90 days, more than 100 employers across trucking have launched Registered Apprenticeship programs.
"The Biden Administration is doing a good job at addressing our concerns," said Sean O'Brien, Teamsters General President. "If companies want to fill openings, they need to pay well and provide good benefits, treat their workers with respect and make sure they are well trained."