If anything positive has come out of the supply chain crisis, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wants truckers to know it is a renewed appreciation for them — and that they should be compensated accordingly.
“Industry estimates that there’s a gap of about 80,000 truck drivers right now relative to what we need,” Buttigieg said in a keynote address Wednesday at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) annual meeting in Washington, citing data from the American Trucking Associations.
“But at the same time my department estimates that 300,000 people leave that field every year. So we have to make sure that not only are we recruiting people into the field but that it’s not a leaky bucket. Rather, we make sure that the working conditions and the compensation reflect the fact that those jobs are absolutely essential.”
Buttigieg made the same pledge earlier in the week while visiting the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (watch his video post below).
To back up his statements, DOT announced on Thursday it is rolling out a slate of initiatives aimed at strengthening the trucking industry’s labor force, including two studies analyzing truck driver pay and unpaid detention time. Some of the programs were required as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that President Joe Biden signed into law in November, and were highlighted in the Trucking Action Plan that Biden unveiled in December.
“Making sure truck drivers are paid and treated fairly is the right thing to do, and it will help with both recruiting new drivers and keeping experienced drivers on the job,” Buttigieg reiterated on Thursday.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is partnering with TRB to conduct the pay study, which will look at how being paid by the load or per mile rather than hourly affects safety.
“The study will also review the amount of time a truck driver spends away from home, driving and detained to determine true working hours, and then determine true hourly wages,” according to DOT.
For the detention time study, FMCSA will for the first time use ELD data “to provide a more detailed understanding of wait times for drivers across jurisdictions and industry sectors,” DOT noted, with data aggregated and made anonymous to protect driver privacy. The study will also look at how detention time affects the likelihood of crashes and hours-of-service violations.
Among the other initiatives now underway at DOT are a Women of Trucking Advisory Board and a Truck Leasing Task Force.
Women nominated to the advisory board will help inform the administration on efforts to increase the number of women in trucking by reporting on current challenges facing female drivers and those interested in becoming drivers. These include barriers to entry, on-the-job safety risks and advancement opportunities.
The leasing task force is being formed jointly by FMCSA, the Department of Labor and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). It will review and report on:
- Common truck leasing arrangements, with a specific focus on inequitable terms and transparency.
- Truck leasing arrangements for ports that involve a requirement for trucks to convert to zero emissions.
- Loans and other arrangements between incoming driver trainees and training schools and/or trucking companies to understand the extent to which these result in outsize and unanticipated debt for incoming drivers.
- Potential predatory leasing arrangements in the trucking industry.