Congress must take need for drivers as seriously as infrastructure, from American Trucker, November 3, 2020. Infrastructure has been front and center leading up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election, though funding for new bridges, roads, and railways are only a few of the building blocks the transportation sector needs from the government to thrive in the next decade and beyond. In the near term, the trucking industry also needs immediate legislative assistance to help get more drivers through training and begin laying the clear groundwork for how trucks will be operate as emissions regulations tighten and new technology is made available. 

Because of the pandemic, the lack of drivers is the most pressing concern. It’s a two-fold problem as shuttered training schools and DMVs hurt the supply of drivers able to receive their commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), while recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to create excess freight demand.

“We’re going to be down probably around 35% new CDL holders compared to last year,” said Don Lefeve, president and CEO of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA). “And the recent capacity crunch is likely to extend well into 2021.”

According to DAT Freight & Analytics, there were 17% fewer spot trucks posts this past October compared to 2019, while spot load posts were up 122%. Van spot rates increased 33%, flatbed 13%, and reefer 22%. To be fair, last October the industry was inching toward a natural economic waning and probable recession, while the recent 33% gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the third quarter of 2020 showed the U.S. economy is likely in the midst of a V-shaped recovery. President Donald Trump has called it a “super V.”

However, the recovery is referenced, it spells trouble for shorthanded fleets depleted by the pandemic. In June during The Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA) Virtual Safety & Security Meeting Trucking Executive Panel, Dennis Dellinger, TCA chairman and president & CEO of Cargo Transporters, expressed concern over the demand caused by a V-shaped recovery due to lack of new drivers. His fleet canceled driver orientation for nearly three months in the spring due to the coronavirus. “If we roared back at 100%, we would not be able to service those customers we have,” he said at the time.

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