- President Joe Biden on Monday highlighted steps his administration has taken to boost the number of truck drivers, including efforts to encourage new apprenticeship programs and recruit more women and veterans.
- The president touted the government's actions to help the industry, including one that encouraged more than 100 companies such as Domino's, Frito-Lay, PepsiCo, Albertsons and UPS to launch apprenticeship programs for improved driver retention since December.
- The news conference celebrated the largest annual employment growth for the industry since 1994. Despite the labor challenges, December through February was the best three-month period of long-haul driver hiring since the 1990s, according to the White House.
The Biden administration met with stakeholders in December to gather input on how to better recruit and retain truckers amid a labor pinch squeezing the industry. The president's resulting Trucking Action Plan includes funding to expedite commercial driver’s license issuances, streamlined apprenticeship program registrations, and more outreach to recruit women and veterans.
Flanked by a pair of Mack trucks on the White House lawn, the president acknowledged more needs to be done.
"We all know we need to move faster, getting more people working in this industry, in jobs they can rely on and raise a family," Biden said.
The administration and industry groups are partnering with leading veterans organizations to connect veterans to trucking jobs — "If you can handle a tank ... you sure as hell can handle one of these suckers," Biden said, gesturing to the big rigs behind him — and a Women of Trucking Advisory Board aims to improve the roughly 90-to-10 ratio of men to women among drivers.
The launch of more than 100 apprenticeship programs since December followed a Department of Labor move to reduce registration times to 48 days from eight months, Biden said. The American Trucking Associations, the National Minority Trucking Association and the Food Industry Association have joined companies in creating apprenticeships.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said his department is investigating truck-leasing arrangements and driver pay, "including those hours when drivers don't get paid, even though they're very much on the job because they're waiting for somebody else."
The efforts will help create "debt-free pathways into the career for more people, including more women and drivers of color," Buttigieg said.
Efforts to recruit more drivers are already paying off, Biden said. The Department of Transportation provided $57 million to help states expedite commercial driver’s license issuances, resulting in a 112% increase in CDL processing in the first two months of 2022 compared to the same time period the prior year.
More than 876,000 CDLs have been issued in the U.S. since January 2021, the White House said in a fact sheet.
Improving hiring and retention in the trucking industry are part of the White House's efforts to improve the nation's supply chains, including encouraging shippers to move cargo 24/7 and launching a national data sharing portal. The president's proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes $3 billion in funding for freight and highway projects.