The national truck driver shortage that is causing supply chain backups now has the attention of Congress. Last week, a bipartisan group of 60 U.S. House members wrote to Labor Secretary Marty Walsh urging him to speed up a federal workforce training program that recruits and trains new truck drivers. The letter says it is "critically important" to "address this crisis" in supply chain constraints.
The shortage of truck drivers has been growing for years, but exploded during the pandemic as older drivers retired and others left the industry. "(The shortage) is about 60,000 drivers nationwide, and that's probably a conservative estimate...that number's going to be growing to up over 100,000," says John Esparza, president of the Texas Trucking Association.
Esparza agrees that the current process for training and testing new drivers is way too slow. "It's often six weeks or eight weeks literally, that you're waiting to take that test," he says.
While the lawmakers are pushing for faster action at the government level, some in the private sector are already doing that. Sierra Nicole is co-owner of Elite Trade Academy in Dallas, which recruits and trains truck drivers. She tells KTRH they are especially reaching out to younger people and women. "Women only make up about seven percent of the trucking industry at the moment, so there is a huge opportunity to bring more women in and help fill that void that is happening," says Nicole.
As for training, their average process at the academy is much faster. "It only takes about four weeks to get your CDL (Commercial Drivers License)," says Nicole. "Once you actually get the CDL and you get hired on with a company, you'll then complete more training with a professional, experienced driver to help you get used to being on the road."
Nicole also agrees with the lawmakers and Esparza that this situation is a growing crisis. "If there's not a solution here soon, we'll be nearing about 100,000 drivers needed out on the road by 2023," she says.