COVID-19

There’s already a shortage of big-rig truck drivers, and the pandemic may make it worse

Jasmine Garsd Apr 10, 2020
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The global COVID-19 pandemic has only made it harder to fill a truck driver shortage. Scott Olson/Getty Images
COVID-19

There’s already a shortage of big-rig truck drivers, and the pandemic may make it worse

Jasmine Garsd Apr 10, 2020
The global COVID-19 pandemic has only made it harder to fill a truck driver shortage. Scott Olson/Getty Images
Share Now on:
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There’s a shortage of big-rig truck drivers in the U.S. The trucking industry needed tens of thousands of drivers even before the coronavirus hit.

And now, the industry’s worried that the pandemic is going to make that shortage even worse.

Dylan Francis, in Kansas City, Missouri, is ready to get out on the road. He has a job as a commercial truck driver waiting for him — once he gets his commercial driver’s license. 

But the DMV is closed indefinitely.

“I wanna be out there doing something,” Francis said. “This was supposed to be a means of not just resources for my family, but providing resources for my country.”

DMVs are shut down in 27 states. And that’s not the only holdup for the trucking industry. Commercial driver training schools are also shut down. 

Don Lefeve, CEO of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association, said he’s worried that when recovery efforts start, truck drivers will be needed more than ever. And there’s a big backup when it comes to training new drivers.

“You don’t flick a light switch and produce a driver overnight,” he said. “We’re talking upwards of three months to get a driver trained.”

That’s just for a basic commercial license. Some drivers require additional training. Andrew Novakovic teaches agricultural economics at Cornell University. 

“In some aspects of general freight, one driver can go in and out of a truck, and if you got a CDL and it’s the right class, you’re in business,” Novakovic said. “But in certain parts of the food industry, it’s not so straightforward.”

The Commercial Vehicle Training Association, along with several major trucking associations, has sent a letter to governors asking them to declare driving schools and DMVs essential services and reopen them. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Which businesses are allowed to reopen right now? And which businesses are actually doing so?

As a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen. In many places, salons are still shuttered. Bars are mostly closed, too, although restaurants may be allowed to ramp up, depending on the state. “It’s kind of all over the place,” said Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Will you be able to go on vacation this summer?

There’s no chance that this summer will be a normal season for vacations either in the U.S. or internationally. But that doesn’t mean a trip will be impossible. People will just have to be smart about it. That could mean vacations closer to home, especially with gas prices so low. Air travel will be possible this summer, even if it is a very different experience than usual.

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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