Infrastructure bill to help truck driver shortage

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As a driver shortage worsens, trucking groups are pleased to see the inclusion of legislation in the infrastructure bill that aims to attract more trucker candidates.

The American Trucking Association estimates that 60,800 driving jobs went unfilled in 2019. Without action, they believe it is only going to get worse. The average age for truck drivers is 46 years old, meaning companies are facing a retiring workforce.

“At the Illinois Trucking Association, we poll our members monthly on the truck driver shortage, and for the month of August, 97% of trucking companies aid they have a truck driver shortage,” said president Matt Hart.

Trucking officials have warned driver shortages can eventually lead to higher costs for consumers.

Included in the federal infrastructure bill recently passed by the U.S. Senate is the DRIVE-Safe Act.

The legislation focuses on one of the primary obstacles to bringing younger drivers into the industry, the requirement that they are at least 21 years old to drive in interstate commerce.

“Once you are 18 years old, you can drive a semi from Rockford to Cairo,” said Hart. “You can drive it anywhere inside a state, but what you can’t do is drive across a state line.”

Under the legislation, once a driver qualifies for a commercial driver’s license, they begin a two-step training program with at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced truck driver.

A coalition of more than 120 companies and trade associations endorsed the DRIVE-Safe Act, including the International Foodservice Distributors Association.

“Investing in America’s future is critical for the foodservice distribution industry, and modernizing our infrastructure for 21st century commerce would help the supply chain more efficiently move goods and materials to America’s foodservice operators and restaurants across the country,” said Mark S. Allen, president and CEO of the IFDA. “We are particularly pleased to see the inclusion of the DRIVE-Safe Act pilot program, which is a food first step in helping to address our nation’s growing truck driver shortage.”

An estimated 15,000 driver positions are currently open in the foodservice distribution industry, according to an IFDA member survey released this summer.

Over half of all trucking companies in Illinois have had to increase driver pay by 8% or more this year to retain and attract drivers.

Chicago-based trucking company Mark-it Express recently announced it was raising pay for company drivers in Illinois. Drivers with hazardous materials endorsement will earn $30 an hour, while drivers without the certification will receive $27 an hour.

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