Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Written by Tim Triplett


Who is more aware of the sorry state of America’s roads and bridges than the truckers who must navigate the potholes every day? That’s why trucking industry trade groups are excited about the new funding in the infrastructure bill passed by the Senate last week. They also support language in the bill that would open up interstate trucking to younger drivers and help alleviate the critical driver shortage that is plaguing steel and other industries.

As the American Trucking Association (ATA) notes, the U.S. is facing a massive driver shortage that is increasing the costs of consumer goods and hurting the economy. Thousands of trucks sit idle because trucking companies cannot find enough qualified drivers. ATA estimates the industry will need to hire some 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade to fill all the vacancies, including those created by the thousands of drivers who are retiring or seeking less stressful employment.

Included in the Senate version of the bill, now under consideration by the House, is the DRIVE-Safe Act, which would address one of the primary obstacles to bringing younger drivers into the industry – the requirement that they are at least 21 years old to drive in interstate commerce. Virtually all states allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license at age 18, but they cannot transport goods over states lines until age 21.

If approved in the final version of the legislation, the DRIVE-Safe Act will require young truckers who wish to drive from state to state to complete an apprenticeship process that includes at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time in the cab with an experienced driver. Every driver will train on trucks equipped with new safety technology, including active braking collision mitigation systems, video event capture, and a speed governor of 65 miles per hour or below. 

Jim Burg, president of James Burg Trucking Co., Warren, Mich., co-chairs ATA’s Infrastructure Funding Task Force, so he is well versed on the DRIVE-Safe Act and its potential for relieving the current driver shortage. Advancements in technology over the past few years, such as automatic emergency breaking and lane departure warnings, make it much less risky to put young drivers on the road as they gain valuable experience, he noted.

“The big issue is maturity,” Burg said. “A new driver needs a chance to get the experience whether they are 18 or 30.”

Will this legislation even make a dent in the massive driver shortage? “This is about securing the next generation,” Burg said. “If we can bring 20,000 young drivers into trucking each year, and get them hooked on the trucking lifestyle before they pursue other careers, that’s a start. Even if it’s just 10,000 drivers a year, we’ll take it.”

SMU Events

Five days and counting to this year’s SMU Steel Summit Conference. It’s not too late to register for the virtual version of the event. You can learn more by clicking here.

SMU will host two workshops in October and November. On Oct. 5-6, we will virtually host our next Steel 101: Introduction to Steel Making & Market Fundamentals Workshop. You can learn more about the Steel 101 workshop by clicking here.

On Nov. 2-3 (half day each) we will virtually host the next Introduction to Steel Hedging: Managing Price Risk Workshop. You can learn more by clicking here.

As always, your business is truly appreciated by all of us here at Steel Market Update.

Tim Triplett, SMU Executive Editor, Tim@SteelMarketUpdate.com

 

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Final thoughts

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