(PR Newswire) As recently as late April, 27 states had closed their departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) due to COVID-19 concerns. While most states have now reopened DMV offices to some degree, staff shortages, social distancing, and limited hours continue to place obstacles in the path of newly trained truck drivers seeking to obtain a license. As a result, experts estimate that in 2020, the U.S. will produce 40% fewer new truckers than normal.(1) “The American economy depends on the trucking industry,” says John Kearney, CEO of Advanced Training Systems (ATS), a leading designer and manufacturer of virtual simulators for driver training, among other applications. “The danger lies in the future when demand picks up post-COVID while there is a serious lack of new drivers to meet them.”
According to the American Trucking Associations, the labor shortage in the U.S. trucking industry (in terms of unfilled positions) is roughly 60,000 drivers. A major factor in this shortage is the relatively high average age—46 years—of the existing workforce.(2) Kearney does mention that typically, such shortage would not pose too great of a danger.
“Currently, demand is down,” Kearney says, “so while there is a slight shortage, it is not detrimental in the current time because consumer demand is not as high as when the economy is running normally.” And with this comes some positive changes—for instance, in the U.S. where the trucking industry has recently been making a greater effort to attract young people, women, and minorities,(3) there have been signs of a potential easing of the shortage, says Kearney.
Any progress that has been made, however, is imperiled by the difficulties currently encountered by would-be new drivers as they seek to become licensed, Kearney notes. Although states have nominally reopened their DMVs, road driving tests (which are essential for obtaining a commercial license) may not be available for months.(4) And as the nation transitions from sitting totally shuttered to stepping into economic recovery, even a slight shortage could spell disaster for both the supply chain and trucking industry.
“Every month we don’t train/license drivers, we are shorting ourselves of 20,000 new drivers we will need during recovery and beyond,” Kearney says.
In response to this situation, a coalition of large businesses and trade groups led by the Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) has urged Congress and the nation’s governors to implement procedures that would speed up the process of enabling new drivers to obtain a commercial learners permit (CLP) or commercial driver’s license (CDL).
On the state level, governors have been asked to take steps to ensure that training schools and state driver’s license agencies (SDLAs) remain open. On the federal level, the coalition has asked for legislation that would temporarily authorize the Secretary of Transportation to administer CLP or CDL training, or to delegate training and certification to driving schools and other qualified organizations.(5)
Additionally to assist in expediting a solution of the shortage, Advanced Training Systems is currently offering its Pre-Trip Training and Evaluation Software App at no charge—not only to its simulator customers, but to the entire national community of commercial driver training institutions as well.
“Right now, we have a problem,” Kearney says. “If six months or a year from now there aren’t enough long-haul truckers to make timely deliveries to, say, grocery stores, we will no longer have just a problem—we will have a crisis. What CVTA and the other signatories to these requests are asking for is a little elbow room to help prevent that from happening.”
About Advanced Training Systems, LLC:
Advanced Training Systems (ATS) is a technology and engineering firm that has revolutionized the design and manufacture of high-tech simulator systems to improve training for operators of all types of motor-powered vehicles. ATS, the holder of multiple patents in its field, is dedicated to providing cutting-edge adaptive training at an affordable cost to all involved in the transportation industry, resulting in more qualified drivers/operators and safer streets.