PLATSBURGH – Faced with an accelerating decline in the number of professional truck drivers locally and nationally, local authorities on Friday called for a more streamlined process to obtain a commercial driver’s license and for more state support to do so .
Northern Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas said businesses are increasingly frustrated with the shrinking workforce and the difficulties they have faced in find new employees.
It has also spread to companies in the supply chain to find new drivers. Douglas said the average age of a professional truck driver in the country is 55, with more of them retiring than being replaced.
Since 2017, said Douglas, the shortage of professional drivers has increased by 20%.
“So that’s the speed at which exit occurs relative to entry,” said Douglas. “If current trends continue, we could face a national truck driver shortage of more than 160,000 by 2028, and that is in the United States alone.
The driver shortage has affected retailers, restaurants and businesses in other sectors, Douglas said.
“We don’t think of these things in terms of the supply chain. But the problem with the supply chain is that it affects everything, ”said Douglas.
Consumers are already feeling the effects of driver shortages, with some sometimes noticing fewer products on store shelves. But as the holiday season approaches, the impact could be greater.
Assembly member Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay Lake) hopes a more streamlined process to obtain a CDL license, state grants to help cover tuition for CDL courses, and greater awareness can help attract new drivers.
“We have to get the message out,” Jones said. “Not many people want to hear about it. We’re going to have a serious shortage of deliveries here if we don’t. “
Jones said federal requirements and tuition fees for courses covering CDL exams that potential drivers face can become barriers for some.
“What we found out is people are giving up,” Jones said. “They won’t come back. “
Jones specifically pointed out that a 20-page section of material covering pre-trip vehicle inspection that people need to learn for the skills portion of the CDL test as particularly heavy.
“It’s a lot for someone to memorize before they even start the vehicle,” he said. “We’re not saying we want something done in a dangerous way, but it puts a lot of pressure on an individual.”
Jones is also seeking more public money to fund grants to cover tuition fees for courses covering CDL exams, which can total thousands of dollars. He also wants to highlight local CDL training programs, such as Champlain Valley Educational Services, in hopes of educating local residents about their options.
To help alleviate the shortage, Jones said defining who the truck drivers are in recruiting efforts should also change.
“We need to expand who is a truck driver. Traditionally it was a male role, ”Jones said. “Not anymore, we want to recruit women. We want to recruit young people. We want to recruit who wants to seize this opportunity.
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