Will new rules aimed at easing truck driver shortage create roadblocks?

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 4:10 PM EST
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CHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - To help alleviate current and future supply chain issues, the American Trucking Association estimates the country will need an additional 60,000-80,000 truck drivers over the next decade.

Steps are being taken to fill the void, but some in the industry worry the recently approved regulations to ease concerns will not solve all the problems.

The newly passed infrastructure bill is not just about building things. It’s also aimed at addressing supply chain issues and a nationwide truck driver shortage.

Judy Brown, of Rutland, is studying to get her commercial driver’s license. She’s looking forward to seeing the country.

“To be able to be paid and to travel is just a really awesome career choice in my opinion,” Brown said.

The 33-year-old is taking a five-week course at Northeast Driver Training in Chester.

“I’ve never even driven a standard car or truck at all, so it was definitely ground up,” Brown said.

Truck drivers are a hot commodity these days. And those in the industry say the current shortage of drivers is having serious consequences.

“The economy is slowly going to grind to a halt if we can’t keep goods and things around the country moving,” said Todd West of Northeast Driver Training.

West has been teaching truckers the trade for almost two decades. He says his phone has been ringing a lot lately and not just from local businesses.

‘’It seems like the companies calling are getting farther and farther away, just hoping somebody has got a driver for them,” he said.

To get more truck drivers on the roads, a provision in the infrastructure bill lowers the age from 21 to 18 for somebody with a commercial driver’s license to cross state lines.

“We can’t make it harder when we need so many people now to get that license. We just can’t make it harder,” West said.

But younger drivers, West says, come with additional costs. Trucks need to be retrofitted with additional safety measures, more training time is required and insurance rates are going up.

“I don’t have any problems with the new rules, just don’t know that now is the time,” West said.

As for Brown, she says it’s almost time for her to hit the open road. And the trucking industry as a whole is targeting more women like her.

“There is not going to be a lack of positions available to me anywhere in the country,” she said.

And average pay for new graduates can be impressive-- upward of $25 per hour with some companies offering thousands in signing bonuses.

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