In late 2021, the Biden administration announced that they were taking a proactive approach to remedy the ongoing shortage of commercial truck drivers. This shortage is amplifying other supply chain issues that were either created or worsened by the global pandemic.
The White House’s 2021 announcement of the “Trucking Action Plan” was followed up with more positive news in February 2022. Specifically, members of Congress introduced two bipartisan bills that aim to expedite the commercial driver’s license credentialing process while also bolstering the trucking industry.
The first bill, known as the Transportation Security Administration Security Threat Assessment Application Act, would allow commercial truck drivers to use a single TSA Security Threat Assessment to meet the requirements of key TSA programs.
A TSA Security Threat Assessment is necessary to participate in the PreCheck program. It is also a prerequisite for obtaining Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC) and Hazardous Material Endorsements.
The second bill is known as the Licensing Individual Commercial Exam-takers Now Safely and Efficiently (LICENSE) Act. Among other things, the LICENSE Act would authorize non-government entities to administer state commercial driver’s license (CDL) knowledge tests and practical exams.
Below, the team at RoadSync outlines why these changes were so important to the trucking industry. In addition, our team explores how the Biden administration’s Trucking Action Plan can potentially reshape the CDL credentialing process and the trucking sector as a whole.
Why Change Is Necessary
While a lack of truck drivers did not necessarily create the nationwide supply chain disarray experienced during the pandemic, it certainly made things worse. According to some studies, the United States needs approximately 80,000 new truck drivers in order to meet current shipping demands.
However, other organizations contend that this number is much lower. Instead, these entities claim that inefficient driver allocation and high turnover are more to blame for our current supply chain woes.
Regardless of who is correct, one thing is clear. Something must be done to alleviate the current workforce challenges that are plaguing the trucking industry.
Fortunately, the sweeping Trucking Action Plan and the two aforementioned pieces of legislation have the potential to do just that. Cumulatively, these initiatives can streamline the commercial driver’s license credentialing process for those new to the field, as well as individuals looking for a fresh start in a different state.
How the Trucking Action Plan Is Reshaping the CDL Process
The Trucking Action Plan is designed to address the truck driver shortage using a multi-faceted approach. This comprehensive set of reforms is designed to:
Increase Emphasis on Apprenticeships
Currently, most truck drivers pay their own way through truck driving school. While there are some companies that offer reimbursement and paid training programs, they are not as widely available as they should be.
As a result, those interested in obtaining a CDL must often enroll in a program independently. They must then pay out of pocket for the program or seek out financial aid.
Unless they opt for a part-time program that is held during nights and weekends, CDL candidates CDL have to go weeks without earning a paycheck. Naturally, this pain point discourages many individuals from attending truck driver school.
In order to alleviate this issue, the Trucking Action Plan places a heavy emphasis on expanding Registered Apprenticeships. The plan includes a 90-day challenge that is designed to encourage businesses to develop new programs or expand existing apprenticeship opportunities.
Nationally, the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship is offering consulting services to trucking businesses during the challenge. The DOL is also partnering with a third-party apprenticeship partner known as FASTPORT.
DOL and FASTPORT can assist trucking companies in setting up an apprenticeship program in as little as 48 hours in most cases.
Enhance Outreach and Recruiting Efforts
According to the White House’s Trucking Action Plan press release, approximately 70,000 veterans have or are “likely to have” certified truck driving experience within the last five years.
In light of this fact, the DOL’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (VETS) is partnering with key service organizations to recruit within the veteran community.
These organizations will work together to help service members transition into good careers within the trucking industry. They will also ensure that veterans’ service-related driving experience is recognized when they seek a CDL.
The hope is that these recruiting efforts will allow the trucking industry to tap into a massive pool of qualified professionals in order to address staffing shortages.
Reduce Barriers to Entry
In addition, the White House is taking steps to reduce barriers to drivers obtaining their CDLs. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) distributed tool kits to the Department of Transportation central offices in all 50 states. These toolkits provide DOT personnel with a list of best practices and tips for expediting the licensure process.
If passed, the LICENSE Act will also help more drivers obtain their CDL credentials as it authorizes private organizations to administer both practical and written tests. This authorization means that CDL applicants will no longer have to rely on the Department of Transportation within their home state to obtain licensure.
Launch “Driving Good Jobs” Initiative
Finally, the DOT and DOL have launched a “Driving Good Jobs” initiative. This program is designed to increase awareness of the challenges facing truck drivers and logistics companies. At the top of the initiative’s priority list are issues such as employee retention, unpaid downtime, improved resource allocation, and truck driver pay.
Cumulatively, the actions outlined by the Trucking Action Plan should make it easier for new drivers to obtain their CDL credentials. This framework and the related pieces of legislation will also serve to protect the interests of drivers and promote fair pay throughout the trucking industry, all while helping businesses fill vacancies.
While there is still plenty of work to be done to improve the commercial driver’s license credentialing process, the early results of the Trucking Action Plan have been quite promising.
If you would like to learn more about the trucking industry or the CDL process, we invite you to explore RoadSync’s other informational resources.