ORLANDO, Fla. — The American Trucking Associations reported recently that the U.S. is currently grappling with a shortage of an estimated 80,000 commercial truck drivers. That is an all-time high for the industry and experts forecast a shortage of more than 160,000 drivers by 2030 if the trend isn't addressed.
What You Need To Know
- The American Trucking Associations reports a current shortage of around 80,000 truck drivers
- Experts say that is an all-time high, which will get worse in the coming years if nothing is changed
- A bipartisan bill currently in Congress would help put more drivers into the pool by lowering the interstate CDL licensing age from 21 to 18
Right now a driver must be 21 to qualify for an interstate CDL license, but a bi-partisan bill — the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE) Act — is in the works to change the requirement to 18.
After tearing an ACL during his senior year at Edgewater High School, Charquez Spain’s shot at playing professional football came to an end.
He now has a part time job at a car wash and admits that what he makes isn’t enough.
“Can’t do it all on what I am making, can’t do it all," Spain, 20, said from his home. "The challenge is basically bills, really.”
Becoming a truck driver was not something he ever thought about before graduating high school, but the 20 year old is now intrigued.
“It would be a good experience for me," he said. "I am a good Florida boy, it would be a good experience for me to go out of state.”
As part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law Monday by President Joe Biden, 3,000 18- to 21-year-olds will now be able to enter into an apprenticeship with a licensed truck driver who has a safe record and is at least 26 years old.
The Roadmaster Drivers School trains about 8,000 drivers a year, and institution President Brad Ball believes lowering the legal age for licensed truck drivers will help solve the shortage affecting the country.
“If 18-years-olds are able to go to war and fight for our country, I would think we can safely train them and be able to benefit from them in trucking,” Ball said.
A trucking school graduate on average will earn $50,000 to $60,000 a year to start, which is nearly three times the amount Spain said he makes a year.
“I definitely help my mom, because she helped me with a lot," he said, explaining what he would do with the extra money from a truck drivers salary. "My grandmother as well. That’s pretty much all, help as much as I can.”
With a surge of holiday shopping around the corner, experts say delays and shortages are likely to continue. Proponents of the age requirement change say the solution to the trucking shortage is pretty simple, though: Find more eligible and licensed drivers to put behind the wheel.
"That shortage is only going to grow," Ball said. "Unless we do something dramatically different than what we have done in the past. And this is dramatically different.”