Newly-Passed Highway Bill has Big Driver Shortage Implications

Newly-Passed Highway Bill has Big Driver Shortage Implications

By Lisa Henthorn, V.P., Corporate Communications

It’s not shocking the industry faces a truck driver shortage: days are long, family life is tough and drivers can spend hours upon hours staring at the same road.

It’s not a secret any longer either, with the shortage front and center amongst the most-discussed topics in supply chain in 2015, and Congress doing their part to address the issue in the latest version on the five-year highway bill. While the focus remains on funding for freight projects and changes to Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) regulations, the bill also includes a pilot program to ease the shortage that is hampering the industry.

So, what proposed solutions are in, which are out?

In: Military veterans in the trucking industry

The bill requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to change rules governing commercial driver’s license (CDL) issuance to allow military veterans with experience operating heavy-duty equipment to more easily obtain a civilian truck operator job.

This portion of the bill has benefits two-fold: putting more butts in the empty seats left by retiring drivers, and creating jobs for veterans as they re-enter the workforce.

Out: Under-21 truckers

Though both the preliminary House and Senate bills included measures to let states enter into contracts with one another to allow 18-21-year-old CDL holders to cross state lines, the final version of the bill does not.

However, the bill does include a FMCSA study which will collect data on under-21 truck drivers who are former members of the military or reserves. The agency will study the “benefits and safety impacts” of allowing such truckers to drive in interstate commerce in the future.

So, what’s this all mean?

Steps are being taken to ease the shortage both now and for the long term by introducing a crop of fresh drivers into the workforce. While these should have far-reaching implications, the supply chain industry should take simple steps to lessen the need for more drivers by effectively collaborating, making mutual decisions that ensure maximum cost savings and increased profits for all involved.

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