Buttigieg, Joshi meet with trucking groups to address workforce challenges

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Updated Jul 12, 2021

Trucking news and briefs for Friday, July 9, 2021:

DOT, Labor Department officials discuss driver recruitment, retention

As part of the Biden administration’s ongoing work addressing supply chain disruption, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, and Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hosted a roundtable Thursday to discuss truck driver recruitment and retention.

"Our economy is getting back on its feet, but the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated longstanding challenges in our supply chain - including truck driver retention.” Buttigieg said. “We are bringing government, industry and key stakeholders together to help support truck drivers and all the consumers and businesses who rely on them."

The American Trucking Associations was one trucking group included in the roundtable discussion. ATA’s Executive Vice Presidency of Advocacy Bill Sullivan joined the group to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the trucking workforce and federal policymakers. 

“The COVID pandemic made Americans more acutely aware of how critical truckers are in sustaining the high standards of living we enjoy in this country,” Sullivan said. “We appreciate Secretaries Buttigieg and Walsh and FMCSA Deputy Administrator Joshi for their leadership in providing a forum to strengthen collaboration as we work together on positive solutions that improve highway safety, make our supply chain more resilient and grow our workforce.” 

Sullivan stressed the industry’s high priority of reaching new talent – including the recruitment of more urban, rural, female and younger drivers – to help stem the tide of attrition. The median age of truck drivers is well above national average of all workers. And since federal regulations prevent younger drivers from participating in interstate trucking earlier in their careers, the average age of new drivers being trained is 35 – making trucking a career of last resort, rather than first choice, for many.

Buttigieg moderated a conversation with stakeholders to surface best practices to improve driver retention and limit turnover. Walsh provided an overview of the Department of Labor’s registered apprenticeship programs and how they can be a tool in driver retention.

"Registered Apprenticeship - which offers workers quality, on-the-job training along with wage progression, and has been shown to improve job retention - can help build a more stable and resilient workforce,” Walsh said. “I look forward to working with Secretary Buttigieg and industry leaders to expand Registered Apprenticeship in order to improve access and retention in the trucking industry." 

Apprenticeships can allow drivers to enter the industry without debt from training, help drivers prepare for the challenges of the job, and receive training on innovative technologies, DOT said in a press release. FMCSA will also facilitate connections between stakeholders and DOL apprenticeship resources and help support the implementation of best practices and administrative actions to improve long-haul truck driver retention. In addition to Thursday’s meeting, FMCSA is working to address other challenges in trucking, including supporting state DMVs as they return to pre-pandemic commercial driver’s license issuance rates, which is helping address the truck driver shortage, DOT added.

In 2021, an average of 50,000 CDLs have been issued each month, which is 14% higher than the 2019 monthly average and 60% higher than the 2020 monthly average, DOT said. Further, FMCSA granted operating authority to more than 92,000 motor carriers, which is an 88% increase from the same time period in 2020 and a 60% increase from the same time period in 2019. 

TMC reports unscheduled roadside maintenance on the rise

The American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council found an industrywide increase in the frequency of unscheduled roadside maintenance in its first-quarter 2021 TMC/FleetNet America Vertical Benchmarking Program.

The survey found that during the first quarter of this year, fleets averaged 29,506 miles of operation between unscheduled road repairs, which was down 18.7% from the fourth quarter of 2020.

TMC reports that truckload carriers averaged 21,856 miles between breakdowns, a 13.1% decrease in miles from the previous quarter. The time between breakdowns for LTL carriers dropped 18.7% to 44,380 miles in the first quarter from the final quarter of 2020. The tank truck sector saw an average of 17,420 miles between breakdowns in the first quarter, down from 12.4% from the previous quarter. 

XPO unveils new benefits for driver trainees

XPO Logistics (CCJ Top 250, No. 6) has launched new benefits for participants in its driver training programs.

The company’s recent enhancements to student compensation and training options are designed to provide industry-best career paths, with access to schools in approximately 30 states, and the flexibility to arrange local attendance. XPO driver trainees now receive:

  • Comprehensive training in seven weeks – five weeks of professional classroom instruction and two weeks of on-the-job experience with a mentor in the cab
  • Free tuition and a guaranteed wage paid for all 180 hours of classroom instruction and on-the-job training — a $10,000 value — plus the opportunity for paid dock work during the course of the program
  • A benefits package from day one of training, including full health insurance (medical, dental and vision), 401(k), life insurance, disability and more
  • An XPO job offer for students who successfully complete the program requirements
  • An accelerated compensation path for driver graduates in 85 U.S. markets

“Our recent investments in LTL training will give more students an edge in becoming highly skilled drivers,” said Josephine Berisha, chief human resources officer for XPO Logistics. “We welcome all applicants with an interest in driving for XPO as an industry leader, including our non-driver employees who want to pursue a career behind the wheel.”