The American Trucking Associations on Tuesday signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor establishing ATA as an official registered apprenticeship sponsor.
The signing ceremony took place at Department of Labor headquarters in Washington and was attended by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear and ATA Chairman Harold Sumerford, Jr.
As a DOL-recognized sponsor at the national level, ATA can now provide its member companies the ability to offer apprenticeships to job applicants while ATA and its partner Fastport — a DOL intermediary specializing in transportation and logistics — administers the program for the participating companies.
“Today is a great day for our association and one we have been working toward for some time,” Spear said. “This partnership puts us in a stronger position to help guide our members and millions of Americans as they pursue rewarding careers in our industry as commercial drivers, and we hope to build on this agreement for technicians and other trucking industry workforces. We want to thank Secretaries Walsh and Buttigieg for working with us to widen this essential, lucrative and vital career path.”
The move comes after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposal for an under-21 truck driver apprenticeship pilot program that would require carrier participants to register an apprenticeship with the Department of Labor.
ATA member carriers who want to participate in the pilot program when it is implemented, if no changes are made and the registered apprenticeship requirement stands, will not have to go through the full apprenticeship registration process and will be able to sign onto the ATA/Fastport apprenticeship. Carriers will, however, still have to meet certain obligations, such as recordkeeping, “but it’s not the same as starting one of these from scratch,” ATA said in a statement to CCJ.
ATA estimates the trucking industry is short more than 80,000 drivers. Diesel technicians are also in high demand and short supply.
ATA says apprenticeships can help fill that gap by combining paid, on-the-job training with instruction to prepare new drivers and technicians for these high-skill careers. They will also enable motor carriers to better highlight the benefits of a career in trucking through the workforce development system nationally, including expanded outreach and training support, as well as expanded support services for prospective drivers.
“This is truly an earn-while-you-learn program,” Spear said. “But it’s more than just a paycheck for apprentices. By participating in a registered program, they are eligible for things like child care, housing allowances, and other support as they start down this new career path.”
Under the apprenticeship program, ATA members will need to meet certain training and compensation standards as they bring in new drivers for a two-year apprenticeship program that will provide graduated wages as drivers develop and expand their skills.
“Cultivating the next generation of trucking talent is of the utmost importance for our industry and the entire economy,” said ATA Chairman Harold Sumerford, CEO of J&M Tank Lines. “This historic agreement formalizes the kind of commitment that motor carriers have always made to their drivers in terms of great pay and benefits, along with high-quality on the job training. With the added power of these apprenticeships, we can accelerate those efforts and help make our long-term hiring goals a reality.”
In addition to Sumerford, trucking industry representatives attending the event included Yellow Corp. CEO Darren Hawkins and professional truck driver Alphonso Lewis, an America’s Road Team Captain and driver for YRC Freight.