The day before Independence Day, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, announced a plan to launch a pilot program that will allow some 18-20 year olds with the military equivalent of a commercial driver’s license to drive trucks in interstate commerce.
“This program will allow our Veterans and Reservists, to translate their extensive training into good-paying jobs operating commercial vehicles safely across the country, while also addressing the nationwide driver shortage,” she said.
Many in the trucking industry have called for a change in the age limit, noting that by the time a young person reaches the age of 21 he or she already has chosen a profession – and all too often it is not truck driving.
American Trucking Associations and many of its member companies earlier mounted a major campaign to recruit military veterans for truck driving and diesel mechanic jobs.
The need is acute. Even with boosts in driver pay, businesses are suffering late and missed deliveries, high spot market rates and in some cases a complete inability to secure truck services when needed.
There are many reasons: a booming economy, declines in productivity stemming from Electronic Logging Devices, and the poor image of truck driving as a profession among young people.
ATA estimates that the shortage will rise from 51,000 in 2017 to 63,000 by the end of this year. “If things don’t change, and we continue up this progression, by 2026, we will be at 170,000 drivers short,” says ATA Chief Economist Bob Catello. “If we get there, not only is our industry in a world of hurt, our economy is in a world of hurt.”