- With states preparing to allow the reopening of businesses and offices, the trucking industry could face a larger driver shortage than normal. Many CDL-granting state agencies are still closed or severely limited in capacity, President and CEO of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) Don Lefeve told Transport Dive.
- At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 27 states closed their State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs), while the remaining 23 states operated on a very limited basis, according to CVTA. And a number of private training schools have slowed down their schedules, meaning the pipeline for new drivers has slowed, too.
- The shutdowns could cause a shortage of between 25,000 to 40,000 truck drivers because the candidates cannot be trained or licensed, according to Lefeve. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimated the normal driver shortage could be as high as 61,000 drivers in its last projection in 2018.
The driver shortage has consistently ranked as the top issue for the trucking industry for the past three years, according to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). But the pandemic has, in the short term, helped erase the shortage, just as the Great Recession did.
The demand side of the equation has fallen significantly, according to Bob Costello, ATA chief economist, who told Transport Topics in late May that the structural problems have not disappeared. And when the economy heats up, the problems — and the large gap — will return, Lefeve said.
"When you start to see the economy turn ... you're going to see a huge capacity crunch," said Lefeve. "[The driver shortage] will go from nothing to on steroids."
Already, trucking is rebounding from floors reached in April and May, according to DAT. Spot truckload rates jumped along various lanes, according to DAT's blog, including:
- Chicago to Allentown, Pennsylvania, up 13 cents to $2.32.
- Los Angeles to Denver, up another 25 cents to $3.09.
- Los Angeles to Seattle, up $2.74.
At least 300,000 drivers a year get CDLs from the state agencies, Lefeve said. Because of COVID-19, the CVTA expects the output to drop by 40%. For the Class A CDL, that means as many as 40,000 candidates who are delayed. Lefeve said the state license branches are so backed up with testing for normal driver's licenses, it has affected CDL testing.
Lefeve noted Texas is still backed up on this front. The state has begun its "Phase 3" of reopening license branches, but that did not increase services offered, only locations, according to the CBS News affiliate in Dallas.