The driver shortage is a common topic in the rate negotiations between carriers and shippers. Fleet executives say they cannot attract and retain quality drivers to provide a service without increasing pay. Inherently, shippers know this is true, but may wonder why no one is really trying to solve the problem.
Carriers using their current leverage in the marketplace to get rate increases might be losing sight of an opportunity to start working on a long-term solution to the problem. The only sustainable path, I believe, is for the transportation industry to offer a better career path to young people as soon as they are eligible to enter the full-time workforce at 18.
Currently, 38 states allow 18-year olds to obtain a CDL for intrastate transportation. All they need to do is pass the test. No formal training is required. Yet few companies are going to hire a newly minted CDL holder with experienced drivers who are looking for local work are knocking on their door.
To pursue a career in long distance trucking, a high school graduate would have to wait until they turn 21 and go to driving school, followed by signing onto a large fleet that offers an apprenticeship program. After gaining several years of experience, they could then begin to explore other options. Chances are, at 21 years old, the decisoin to become a trucker is being made after their first and second choices ended in disappointment.
The federal government is not going to change the minimum age requirement for CDLs anytime soon. So, any company that is truly serious about solving the driver shortage will have to be willing to work closely with insurance companies to create a training and apprenticeship program that allow them to hire drivers under the age of 21. Such programs will be expensive and cumbersome to administer, but is there really another long-term solution?