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USDOT takes next steps to further Biden's trucking improvement plan

Jan. 14, 2022
Florida Rock & Tank now joined by more than 100 employers committed to expanding registered apprenticeship programs for truck drivers

The U.S. Departments of Transportation and Labor this week shared the next steps in several new initiatives revealed in December as part of the Biden-Harris Trucking Action Plan, which the White House says will support drivers and improve retention times, while expanding access to quality driving jobs now and in the future.

These steps uphold the 30-day commitments made in the Trucking Action Plan, USDOT said.

One key initiative is the expansion of registered apprenticeship programs.

Florida Rock & Tank Lines—led by president and CEO, and National Tank Truck Carriers chairman, Rob Sandlin—was one of the first transportation companies to commit to working with the Biden administration to accelerate the expansion of registered apprenticeships through the 90-day Trucking Apprenticeship Challenge.

Registered apprenticeships are a proven workforce strategy for helping employers and organized labor partners develop and retain a skilled workforce, officials said.

“In the 30 days since the administration’s ‘Driving Good Jobs’ initiative was launched, there is new energy and enthusiasm behind the effort to ensure jobs in the trucking industry are good, safe, and sustainable jobs attractive to new generation of truck drivers who will remain in the industry over the long term,” Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said.

“Industry has to and is stepping up to partner, and in the last month, we are already working with more than 100 employers to expand registered apprenticeships for drivers, an important step to making this shift a reality.”

More than 20 employers already are close to launching brand-new apprenticeships, which will put thousands of new skilled and safe drivers on the road in good trucking jobs trained using the ‘earn while you learn’ registered apprenticeship model, USDOT said.

Over the next 60 days, USDOT, the Labor Department, and industry partners will continue to host informational meetings and work with employers, industry groups, and labor organizations to further support the development of registered apprenticeships across the industry. 

Other initiatives include:

  • Creating the Women of Trucking Advisory Board mandated in the bipartisan infrastructure law.
  • Creating a new task force to investigate predatory truck leasing arrangements with the Labor Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Beginning two studies to explore the issues of truck driver pay and unpaid detention time.
  • Launching the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot—an under-21 pilot program for truck drivers mandated in the bipartisan infrastructure law.
  • Over $32 million in funding to states to improve CDL licensing process.

“In some parts of the trucking industry, 90% of drivers turn over each year,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “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.”

Below are more details on next steps for the federal government to begin to address some of the challenges truck drivers face in their professions.

Women of Trucking Advisory Board

The advisory board will help inform efforts to increase the number of women in trucking by reviewing and reporting on the current challenges facing woman drivers and those interested in joining the profession, such as barriers to entry, on-the-job safety risks, mentorship, quality training, and opportunities for advancement.

USDOT’s Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration (FMSCA) will begin soliciting nominations for the advisory board to ensure that the composition of the board represents a cross section of women in the trucking industry.

This week, the White House is convening a virtual roundtable to gather input on how to build a more inclusive and equitable workplace for women in the trucking industry.

Truck Leasing Task Force 

Along with FMCSA, the Labor Department, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will form a Truck Leasing Task Force that will review leasing arrangements to identify actions that could make leases more equitable and transparent. 

The task force will be focused on reviewing and reporting 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 outsized and unanticipated debt for incoming drivers.
  • Looking into predatory truck leasing arrangements with the Labor Department in coordination with the CFPB.

Detention time study

FMCSA released a scope of work to begin a study on driver detention time and its impact on safety and compensation.

Unlike past studies on the impact of driver detention time, this study will use a cross section of electronic logging device data to provide a much more detailed understanding of wait times for drivers across jurisdictions and industry sectors. Data used will be aggregated and anonymized to ensure driver privacy.

In addition to quantifying detention time, the study also will review how detention time influences the likelihood of a crash or an hours-of-service violation.

Compensation study 

FMCSA has begun partnering with the Transportation Research Board to conduct a study of the impacts of various methods of driver compensation on safety and driver retention.  

Specifically, the study will review the safety effect of payments made to truck drivers per load or per mile versus payments per hour. 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.

Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot (SDAP)

FMCSA notified the public that it will be screening motor carriers to determine their eligibility to participate in the SDAP if they meet strict safety standards.

In the coming days, FMCSA will publish a Federal Register Notice that outlines the program safety requirements, including a requirement that participants meet the qualification standards of the Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship program.

FMCSA will also conduct outreach to motor carriers with excellent safety records inviting their participation in the program. 

Funding to states for CDL licensing

USDOT and FMCSA are supporting state departments of motor vehicles as they return to—or even exceed—pre-pandemic commercial driver’s license (CDL) issuance rates, which is helping bring more truck drivers into the field.

As part of the Trucking Action Plan 30-day commitments, FMCSA announced over $30 million in funding available to help states expedite CDLs.

The FMCSA also sent all 50 states a toolkit detailing specific actions they can take to expedite licensing and will work hand-in-hand with states to address challenges they are facing.