From MG+M The Law Firm.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the trucking industry was facing significant challenges in recruitment and retention of drivers. These issues became even more pressing as measures to combat the pandemic, including lockdowns, caused supply chain interruptions. The White House already has targeted certain problematic practices with the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. Included within the Executive Order was a directive to the Surface Transportation Board to strengthen oversight of cargo transport. While those representing the rail transportation industry have cautioned this oversight as potentially problematic, there is a sense that it would benefit the trucking industry.
Ian Jefferies, President and CEO of the Association of American Railroads, critiqued the Executive Order alleging it throws an “unnecessary wrench” into freight rail’s efforts to navigate through the challenges to the supply chain brought on by the pandemic. Another major criticism from Jefferies was aimed at the direction in the order for the Surface Transportation Board to consider a forced switching rule which would require rail carriers with physical access to a specific shipper’s facilities to switch that access to another carrier who then compensates the original carrier for the access. Jefferies stated, “Such a rule would degrade rail’s significant benefits to both customers and the public by throttling network fluidity, disincentivizing investment, increasing costs to shippers and consumers, and ultimately diverting traffic onto trucks and the nation’s already troubled highways.”
The White House took further steps to try and address some of the major concerns of the trucking industry on July 8, 2021 when the Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, Labor Secretary, Marty Walsh, and Deputy Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Meera Joshi, met with leaders in trucking to address areas of and ease the strain on the supply chain. Among the concerns discussed were the over 90 percent and 72 percent turnover rates for long and small carriers (according to the Department of Transportation), respectively, the lag time in training new drivers, and the issue of recruiting new drivers. President Biden also established a Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, with the Department of Transportation taking lead. The centered focus to address the issues of The American Trucking Associations expressed a need to bring new talent into the profession, and tap into a new pool of potential workers.
While COVID-19 has hurt multiple industries, the shortage in available drivers has significantly hampered the country’s supply chain. The White House has recognized this and has taken the first steps to addressing these concerns.