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

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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