Buttigieg: 300,000 truckers leave industry every year

April 28, 2022

Mark Schremmer


Responding to questions about the supply chain, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pointed to problems with driver retention in the trucking industry.

“Part of this is a labor issue – the availability of truck drivers,” Buttigieg said. “My department estimates that 300,000 people leave that career every year, and we just can’t afford that.”

Buttigieg’s response was part of a Thursday, April 28 Senate subcommittee hearing focused on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s funding request for the fiscal year 2023.

As part of the hearing, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., asked the secretary about how to improve problems with the supply chain, including trucking.

Buttigieg mentioned the Biden administration’s Trucking Action Plan, which is aimed at making the career of truck driver a long-term option. Although the American Trucking Association claims the industry faces a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says the problem is one of retention.

OOIDA points to figures showing that around 400,000 new CDLs are issued each year. However, large carriers possess turnover rates of 90% or more, and truck drivers are quickly leaving the industry because of low pay and dismal working conditions. In March, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka told Buttigieg that a lack of drivers isn’t the problem.

The Trucking Action Plan includes studies on detention time and overall driver compensation. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a recommendation earlier this year for Congress to remove the motor carrier exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act that prevents many truck drivers from receiving overtime pay.

Lack of supply

Buttigieg also noted that the chain is only half the equation. Because of the pandemic, a shortage of microchips, and other factors, there’s less supply to ship in many instances.

“There are supply chains and then there’s just supply,” Buttigieg said. “With shutdowns in China, it creates another issue. Because you can’t ship something that hasn’t been produced.” LL


Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.