Driver retention key to supply chain, Buttigieg says

May 3, 2022

Mark Schremmer


Addressing working conditions, such as the lack of truck parking, is a way to increase driver retention, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said during a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, May 3.

“We lose about 300,000 truck drivers a year,” Buttigieg said. “We have to look at everything from working conditions to compensation. Among the conditions I would mention critically important is truck parking. The sooner we can address those, the sooner we can not only bring people into the career but have people stay and thrive in that vitally important part of our supply chain.”

Buttigieg repeatedly mentioned the importance of driver retention during Tuesday’s Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing on the U.S. DOT budget.

He touted the administration’s apprenticeship program to recruit new drivers, while saying that making the career more attractive is also crucial. The Trucking Action Plan calls for separate studies on overall driver compensation as well as on detention time. In addition, the Department of Transportation included the repeal of the motor carrier overtime exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act as one of its recommendations to improve the supply chain.

“Knowing that people are the most critical element to supply chains, we’ve acted to help truck drivers by addressing time spent behind the wheel without being paid, by guiding states to build additional safe truck parking and by nearly doubling the number of registered apprenticeship programs so that more drivers enter the profession with high quality and paid on-the job training,” he said. “All of this is designed to move a record amount of goods more quickly and to stem the rising costs of shipping, and it’s showing results.”

In addition to compensation, Buttigieg said that truck drivers’ inability to find safe parking is another reason they choose to leave the industry.

The infrastructure law passed in 2021 didn’t include any direct funding for truck parking. Instead, Buttigieg is encouraging state DOTs to use existing programs to secure funding for truck parking. At a hearing in March, Buttigieg said those include the Surface Transportation Block Grant program, the National Highway Freight program, the Highway Safety Improvement program, the National Highway Performance program, and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association would like the U.S. Department of Transportation to use $1 billion in discretionary funding for truck parking.

OOIDA wrote to Buttigieg with the request in November and also has worked with the American Trucking Associations to ask for truck parking funds.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act does not dedicate any funding exclusively to truck parking, despite the broad bipartisan and industry support for federal investment,” OOIDA wrote. “With the significant amount of new discretionary funding your department will be responsible for allocating under the IIJA, we believe that you have the ability to direct funding to critical truck parking projects across the country.” LL