Driver Shortages: What's Being Done to Fix the Problem

Driver shortages for the trucking industry have been making national headlines for years. Periodically bus driver shortages make the news when specific districts face a critical shortage.

What’s being done about this?

Legislation

The senate and house recently resurrected a controversial bill to allow truck drivers under 21 years of age to drive across state lines. Currently, 48 states allow 18 year olds to receive a CDL license, but federal law requires that they cannot cross state lines.

Alabama Trucking Association reports in a recent February article that “While lowering the minimum age for interstate drivers, the bill also establishes an apprenticeship program for CDL holders under 21. Young drivers would apprentice under the guidance of a veteran driver while also studying best driving practices, safety standards. During the training period apprentice drivers are subjected to performance benchmarks.

They must complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver in the cab. Trucks used for training must be equipped with active braking collision mitigation systems, a video event-capture system, and a speed governor set at 65 miles per hour or below, according to published reports.

The American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear said his group fully supports the bill, calling it “critically important to the American economy.”

The bill is opposed by safety advocacy groups and independent driver organizations, including the Owner Operator Independent Driver Association. These groups believe it is irresponsible to lower the age and that efforts to impact driver shortages should be geared towards the underlying issues of high driver turnover caused by poor working conditions. These groups drivers should have better working conditions and increased pay.

Driverless Cars

Tesla made waves years ago with driverless technology, and governments around the world realized that they needed to start addressing this burgeoning technology before these cars replaced human driven automobiles. While we are years away from driverless technology replacing humans, the trucking industry has understandably been watching this developing industry with keen industry.

Companies such as Fedex and Amazon, who depend on fleets of truckers to get their packages delivered every day, are keenly interested in this technology and believe it could allow for a safer and more economic delivery of packages.

Tech World recently released a report on which companies are working on driverless technology. Twenty six companies working on driverless technology were featured, but the following companies caught my eye as being particularly interesting for commercial drivers.

  • Volvo featured as the first company listed and an autonomous Volvo bus was featured front and center.
  • The German carmaker Continental is exploring autonomous driver technology that will also employ automated delivery dogs to deliver packages to the front door step.
  • Transport firm Stagecoach is researching driverless buses.
  • Addison Lee is hoping to deploy automated taxis by 2021. Uber is similarly committed and has already stated it will buy 24,000 Volvo XC90’s with driverless technology. So, maybe this technology isn’t that far away?

While obviously driverless shipping holds tremendous benefits for companies fighting a driver shortage, this impending doom and gloom on employment opportunities might make recruiting new drivers to this field more challenging. How many drivers will be attracted to a field with a potentially limited future for employment?

Lisa Lippiner covers driving news for DMVCheatSheets.com
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