Biden Administration highlights growth in U.S. trucking jobs, apprenticeships

Just over three months after unveiling a broad-reaching Trucking Action Plan, the Biden Administration is highlighting growth in U.S. trucking industry apprenticeships and established workers alike.

Last year marked the best year for growth in trucking jobs since 1994, and the three months from December to February saw more longhaul truck drivers hired than any three-month stretch since the 1990s, the White House said in an April 4 update. Real wages also grew this year despite elevated inflation, it added.

Still, trucking-related costs remain 20% higher than last year in the face of rising consumer demand and a pre-pandemic dip in trucking industry workers, it said.

White House
(Photo: istock)

Apprenticeship and licensing initiatives are framed as potential solutions.

Employers including Domino’s, Frito-Lay and UPS established new apprenticeship programs after the U.S. Department of Labor reduced related red tape. And NFI and Total Transportation have each hired more than 50 apprentices after launching new programs of their own.

The number of trucking apprenticeship programs has nearly doubled, now including 100 employers and seven trade associations. In 2022, this could lead to more than 10,000 new registered apprenticeships, the White House projects.

A new pilot project is also offering registered apprenticeships for drivers under the age of 21.

“Industry associations are now leading on the expansion of trucking apprenticeships and will be across the U.S. for years to come,” the White House said in the update, citing initiatives from groups including the American Trucking Association, National Tank Truck Association, Truckload Carriers Association, and North American Punjabi Trucking Association. The Trucking Alliance, whose members employ a collective 80,000 divers, has committed to registered apprenticeships in more than 200 locations in 36 states.

“Investing in our workforce never stops. It’s a constant. Our industry needs an additional 80,000 commercial truck drivers if we’re to meet consumer demand. We welcome the support of all elected officials as we recruit and train more talent into this critical industry,” American Trucking Associations president Chris Spear said before a White House event highlighting the apprenticeship initiatives.

“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. This long-sought designation provides our member companies valuable new tools and resources to help recruit and train the next generation of trucking talent.”

A new federal task force, meanwhile, is supporting the recruitment and retention of veterans and military family members. About one in 10 existing U.S. truckers are veterans, which is double the rate of workers overall.

More CDLs and more research

States are also processing more commercial driver’s licences (CDLs), with the U.S. Department of Transportation announcing more than US $57 million to help the jurisdictions expedite the work and coordinate waivers. The number of CDLs processed in January and February were up 112% compared to the same months last year.

Research into a broad array of trucking-related issues continues.

More than 100 people have participated in seven listening sessions about the Trucking Action Plan, leading to task forces on predatory truck leasing arrangements, women in the industry, and more.

New research is being launched into driver detention time and its affect on safety and compensation, and additional funding for states to address trucking parking. “Lack of truck parking across the country is about more than just inconvenience, it impacts safety and retention as exhausted drivers have nowhere to rest,” the White House said.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association applauded the administration for adding truck parking to the plan, and for gathering information on issues like detention time and driver compensation.

“However, drivers are still waiting on meaningful measures that will help address these problems,” it said in a prepared statement. “We have yet to really see any substantive actions that can help keep new or current drivers in the industry long-term.”

  • This story has been updated with comments from ATA president Chris Spear

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.