Lucas Leads Letter Urging Labor Secretary to Address Supply Chain Crisis
Cheyenne, OK – Last week, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) led more than 60 of his House colleagues in a bipartisan letter to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh expressing growing concern over the nationwide truck driver shortage and its effects on the nation’s supply chain challenges. Co-led with House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott (D-GA), the letter highlighted alarming turnover rates in the trucking industry and urged Secretary Walsh to prioritize DOL Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grants for applicants seeking to become truck drivers.
The WIOA program provides access to job training for dislocated workers, low-income individuals & out-of-work youth. However, the approval process for some WIOA grant applications can take up to several weeks or months, even for applicants with experience driving long haul trucks. Expediting the application and training process can help fill the estimated 80,000 openings currently available.
“Trucking has emerged as one of the two most critical bottlenecks in the persistent freight backlog, the other being long delays at loading docks and seaport terminals,” the lawmakers wrote. “[The] truck driver shortage in the United State coupled with a global economy emerging from the pandemic, has resulted in an uneven economic recovery for millions of American families. Unless we exhaust every possible avenue in which to address this crisis, we risk worsening supply constraints for manufacturers and rising prices on consumer goods.”
The nationwide trucking shortage has added to issues across the supply-chain, leading to overflowing warehouses, empty store shelves and congestion at ports. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently found that the trucking industry lost 6 percent of its pre-pandemic labor force of 1.52 million workers in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of October, the industry recovered about 65,000 of those lost jobs but remains short of effectively meeting supply chain demands.
“With turnover rates for large, long haul truckers reaching the 90 percent mark and the lag time for training and onboarding new drivers lasting several months, it is critically important DOL enact these measures as soon as possible,” the Members concluded.
The letter has been endorsed by the: American Trucking Associations (ATA), National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC), Women in Trucking (WT), International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO), the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA).
Lucas, last week, joined in introducing the Truckers Responding At National Shipping Ports Overcoming Retail Turmoil (TRANSPORT) Act, which would require the Secretary of Transportation to issue federal grants from unused relief dollars to motor carriers to transport goods from a port of entry to a destination point. It would also temporarily waive operating standards should those standards be more stringent than the federal standard, allowing U.S. Department of Transportation compliant trucks and drivers from other states to relieve ports and transport goods across the country.
Full letter text and list of Members who co-signed can be found here.