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Federal panel urges Biden administration to attack driver shortage

Lack of drivers likely at ‘all-time high,’ according to Department of Commerce supply chain committee

Panel recommends more attention to racial and gender diversity in trucking. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Supply chain experts advising the Biden administration want the U.S. Department of Commerce to lead a multiagency effort to address a truck driver shortage they warn has “likely reached an all-time high.”

The International Trade Administration’s Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness (ACSCC), a 45-member panel of industry officials that advises the secretary of commerce on national freight policy, voted at an ad hoc meeting on Wednesday to recommend that the department “take a leadership role to coordinate federal agencies to immediately address the driver shortage that threatens the effectiveness of the nation’s critical supply chains.”

In a draft letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the committee noted that the pandemic had underscored the importance of supply chains to the country’s economy.

“The supply chains were crucial in the immediate response to the crisis and are now even more crucial as the nation develops resilient, diverse, and secure supply chains for critical goods movement for the future,” the letter stated. “The vital common link for domestic operations and distribution among our air, sea, and land ports is effective truck transportation.”

ACSCC recommends that Commerce oversee a two-prong approach:

  • Facilitate the pathways to becoming an interstate truck driver by expanding the demographic pools attracted to the profession and increasing driver training and apprenticeship programs.
  • Improve the driver experience through addressing truck-parking shortages and safety concerns.

“Various departments are doing this already, and indeed the infrastructure bill passed by the Senate also addresses part of this as well,” ACSCC Workforce Development Subcommittee Chair Anne Strauss-Wieder told the panel. The Senate bill includes new funds for an under-21 driver apprenticeship program and also establishes a new board within the Department of Transportation aimed at increasing the number of women in trucking.

Strauss-Wieder pointed out that lawmakers had considered setting aside money to expand truck parking but such a provision was not in the bipartisan Senate bill passed earlier this week.

ACSCC member Jason Craig, who directs government affairs for third-party logistics company C.H. Robinson, told the committee that truck parking must be addressed if the industry hopes to recruit drivers from urban areas. He cited recent news of the Minneapolis City Council voting to ban truck parking on city streets as undermining such efforts. C.H. Robinson is based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, just outside Minneapolis.

“One thing we realized very quickly here is that this is also an issue of equity, and if the industry hopes to attract folks from urban areas into the industry, these truck-parking bans within cities need to be addressed,” Craig said.

The vote to approve recommending that Commerce coordinate addressing the lack of truck drivers was not unanimous. ACSCC member Michael Podue, who represents labor at West Coast port terminals as an official within the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, wanted more emphasis on boosting wages as a way to attract more drivers to the industry.

“I’m not totally opposed to [the committee’s recommendations] at all,” Podue said. “Here on the West Coast and all across the country right now the driver shortage is epidemic. Anything we can do to encourage people to be truck drivers is important. But I think working conditions and driver wages are definitely something to look at. How we get there, I don’t know.”

Podue also pushed back on proposals to recruit younger drivers.

“My concern is putting someone under 21 behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound vehicle without proper training,” he said. “We have to be real careful that these training programs are comprehensive. I don’t want an 18- or 19-year-old behind the wheel of a vehicle driving across the country in all types of terrain and all types of weather. I get concerned about the safety aspect.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. Elijah Drayton

    When it comes to the guys that’s policing this situation let them all ride with a driver that they do not know for 30 days they they can feel our pain. The issues at hand is very serious, but unless they walk the walk they can’t talk the talk so they need to ride a little then talk

  2. Steve R R Russo Jr

    Yep…in Ca they need to stop screwing with Owner Operators…what Ca has done is end the Business for these Drivers !!! Basically, redefining Stupidity!!

  3. FLE+LLC

    The GOVERNMENT is the reason most are leaving our don’t want any part of this corrupt and hostile industry.
    I tried to park in a safe haven in Louisiana weight station last night and got woke up to a citation and CSA points for trying to take a safety rest.
    Hey get Biden involved and let’s see how much worse they can screw it up for the working man !!! 😡😡😡😡

    1. Stephen Webster

      I had the same thing happen too me after I got held over a hour because a accident in a construction zone. We need more flexible and overtime after 10 hours and double time after 13 hours across the U S and Canada. Before we bring in foreign truck drivers

  4. Stephen Webster

    Start paying us a good wages and provide parking with WI Fi and bathrooms and electric plugs for 50 cents per hour and opay after 10 hours. The drivers will come back between August of 2019and July 2020 in Ontario Canada alone 10,000trucks got parked or scraped between high insurance costs and the small transport companies not to get insurance for new drivers.

  5. David+bell

    LOL LOL LOL Let me catch my breath . I’m glad hear they want Biden to get involved in the driver shortage. After 35 years of experiencing the abuse of the trucking industry it makes me happy to see they want a moron that has a track record of destroying everything he gets involved in fix their problem LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL. Makes me happy to see your problem will elevate to a new level. I suppose your are going to make laws forcing anyone with a CDL to drive whether they want to or not. LOL LOL LOL. That’s the way communist handle the problem.
    You know if these companies would start paying the drivers and treating them with respect and quit kissing the shippers and receivers butts and stop them from abusing the drivers they would have all the drivers they need but they want to let the system continue along as it is and wonder why they have trouble getting people to do the job.

  6. S. Brown

    I hope it gets worse before it gets better! I’ve been in this industry for 22 years and trust me if I could’ve found something else to do that paid half way decent, I would’ve put the steering wheel down a long time ago! Trucking is a dog eat dog industry! Americans depend on trucks for everything but yet don’t want them on their streets, their highways, etc. Greedy politicians and lawmakers wants to bleed them dry. Law enforcement enacting illegal and forceful ticketing, knowing the driver won’t show up in court and just pay the ticket! Vehicle drivers cuts them off constantly playing cat and mouse with 80,000 lbs like it’s a game, without realizing that they are playing with their lives! Meaningless laws that protect everyone else except the driver who is away from home days,weeks,even months at a time, with one agenda, to keep the country supplied, unaware and unprotected from the agendas of others who visualize drivers as a target! Who wants a career in this industry where a suit and tie ahole decides when you can sleep,eat,drive,take a break? Probably the same ahole who thought that eld would make the roads safer,but we all knew eld was primarily all about money! And why isn’t the government concerned about distractions to vehicle drivers? Phones getting bigger and I hear automakers are putting firesticks in cars, are you serious? US government did you hear that? Our crooked government pinching the trucking industry some more to create jobs, same as with the brokers! Millions of dollars, all at the expense of the trucking industry, just to create jobs! Who wants a career in this industry that controls and runs this country and can shut it down at any given moment but yet is treated like scum of the earth? And still to today, no one ever asks the driver, “what can this country do for you “? That’s because the people who keeps this country supplied opinions don’t matter to the suit and ties, it’s “shut up and drive”! I don’t want my kids in this industry, nor do I want their kids in this industry! And what’s happening now is the government’s fault, all the years of imposing all the rules and regulations have backfired! Government officials with no knowledge of hands on when it comes to truckin, debating how it should be run! Like a head chef of a restaurant with no experience with culinary arts! President Biden’s elected DOT chief, who has no knowledge of truckin came from supervising school busses, that’s not even a combination vehicle! It just seems to be a big joke to our government until they are affected, and their time is now and upcoming. And with the direction the government has steered truckin, I don’t blame experienced drivers for leaving and I don’t blame would be future drivers from choosing other occupations! Who wants to be a part of this big mess! I long for the day when they are crying on their knees begging and that day we will know that our government and the people truly appreciate what we have done and are continuing to do for this country! And for the record, with all the social media, the big smart phones, IG, FB live…you can’t put 21yr olds behind the wheel of 80,000 lbs unless you’re asking for trouble!

  7. Robert+Avila

    Do not put a 21 year old behind a wheel of a semi. To drive these machines you must be focused..even in yourself and fully familiar with the machine and above all patience of events. A 21 year is still more on boy hood than manhood. I recognize they are our soldiers but for the most part are not in high leadship positions.

    1. Tcs53

      I totally disagree. I started driving professionally when I was 18 in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. By the time I was 21 I was driving interstate. After 45 years I finally retired. Not all 21 year old men are immature but I do agree that many if not most of the carriers out there today underpay their drivers. Under 21 I agree should not be allowed to drive professionally. That in my opinion is the rub, truck driving is a profession, it’s more than just a job and should be treated that way.

  8. Stephen Webster

    The solution is to require all shipping and receiving to provide overnight parking with 20 amp electric plugs and bathrooms where possible. Those that do not should have contribute 50.00 dollars U S per pickup or delivery into a fund to build truck parking within a safe driving distance. Also bring in Insurance to cover all new drivers over the age of 19 as a second driver and a solo driver of 21 years of age or has 2000 hours as a second driver on a junior team member. Bring graduated pay that a truck drivers pay goes up with more experience
    Bring in overtime pay after 8 hours driving or 10 hours on duty and double time after 13 hours per day
    In return drivers can work a 16 hour day. Also require all trucking companies to have a plan to look after sick injured truck drivers that use homeless shelters as a home base when sick. A study in Canada in 2005 was released in early 2006 said that unless local drivers made 1,6 times minimum wage after have 5000 hours experience and O T R 1.9 times minimum wage plus overtime and medical care on payroll truck driver was not competitive with other jobs in construction or factory worker or jobs like a fireman in Ontario Canada. 5195239586

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.