President Joe Biden's plan to shore up the trucking industry's spotty record with recruitment and retention drew mixed reviews from industry trade groups American Trucking Associations (ATA) and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).
ATA's Vice President of Advocacy Bill Sullivan said his group was encouraged that the Biden Administration not only recognized the importance of adding new and well-trained employees to the trucking workforce, "but has announced a path forward with what we believe will become a robust training opportunity for future commercial truck drivers."
Biden's plan, unveiled Thursday, focuses on initiatives that would bring military veterans and women into the trucking labor pool, and charges the Department of Labor with pushing forward plans for Registered Apprenticeship programs.
Sullivan said the apprenticeship program proposed under the plan "will help any American pursue a career in this great industry for good wages and benefits in a safe manner without the significant debt many jobseekers can sometimes incur."
OOIDA President Todd Spencer said the emphasis on driver recruitment comes at the expense of solving the core problem industry-wide: retention.
"There are some elements in the plan we support, including further analysis of driver compensation and unpaid detention time," he said. "However, the plan fails to address excessively high driver turnover rates. Attracting and training new drivers won’t solve the larger problem of retention. We need to create an environment where truckers can have long, safe and productive careers."
To tackle retention, the departments of labor and transportation – as part of the Driving Good Jobs initiative – will conduct regular driver listening sessions and plan to use that feedback to drive more regulatory action to "support improving the quality of trucking jobs in America." The group will also look into "setting up a task force to investigate predatory truck leasing arrangements," the White House said.
Department of Transportation also will work to streamline the CDL process, reducing the delay from taking the test and receiving licensure, and seeks to provide grants to states to improve IT infrastructure to improve the licensing process.