TAMPA, Fla — Supply chain issues have continued to push into 2022 and a shortage of truck drivers has played a significant role. But could that be about to change?
Local Tampa Bay area driving schools say they are seeing an abundance of people who want their commercial driver's license.
“We have had an increase in interest over the last two years since the beginning of COVID and the supply chain news," the President of Roadmaster Drivers School, Brad Ball said.
Roadmaster Drivers School in Tampa said they are in the process of expanding their schools to accommodate the number of applicants who want their CDL.
"A couple years ago we had 13 schools and we have 20 schools today. We expect to have 27 schools by the end of the year. So, we’re doing our best to grow in the areas that need us most," Ball added.
The American Trucking Associations reported the transportation industry is short 80,000 truck drivers. To help make up for the shortage of drivers, the federal infrastructure bill is allowing younger drivers out on the road across state lines.
Under the Drive Safe Act, those 18 to 20 years old in the program will be allowed to drive trucks across state lines. This is aimed to help with the nationwide shortage.
Ball says it's a change that benefits the transportation industry because a person doesn't need a college degree to be a truck driver. It would also mean training schools could start recruiting younger drivers.
"There’s an 18 to 20-year-old pilot program that was in the Drive Safe Act, as a part of the infrastructure bill that Biden recently signed. That, unfortunately, won’t have an impact short term because it’s only going to allow us to put 3,000 drivers into that program, but if that program proves to be successful, which I hope that it will, I believe we will be able to train those 18 to 20 years old as safe professional drivers in the future," Ball explained.
The pilot program comes with a lot of safety aspects to ensure those younger truck drivers will be responsible on the road.
"The program comes with a number of safety-related aspects. In itself, it’s required to be very safe equipment, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning. Additionally, it’s a longer training requirement, they have to go to work with a company that has an apprenticeship program with many hours of training," Ball stated.
Officials with the American Trucking Associations (ATA) also supported the program.
“We support this program because it dramatically raises safety and training standards above today’s bar. Currently, in 49 states, plus the District of Columbia, 18 to 20-year-olds can obtain a CDL and operate large commercial vehicles — they just can’t cross state lines under federal law," Nick Geale, ATA vice president of workforce policy said.
ATA officials say the program is also equipped with safety measures.
"This bipartisan program will — with unprecedented training and technology requirements to improve safety for everyone — give a small number of those already licensed younger Americans the right to move goods from state to state. Far from hurting safety, this program will raise the bar for safety far above and beyond what is currently required," Geale added.
Ball explained the program won't be a short-term fix to the truck driver shortage, but rather a part of the long-term solution.
"I don’t think there’s a magic wand that we can wave. We just have to keep plugging away and from Roadmaster’s perspective, we’re going to grow as fast as we can," Ball added.