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
HTML EMBED:
COPY

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

With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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